The Language of Rest

Last week, I talked about “When Trauma Affects Your Ability to Listen to Your Body.” I finished the article with:

THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE OF REST

Why? I didn’t know what my own body was telling me. I didn’t know how to cue into it. I still struggle with knowing what it’s trying to tell me. It’s as if we don’t speak the same language. It says, “rest” and I don’t speak the rest language. It’s foreign to me. I put my self-imposed to-do list above my body’s needs. Not good. I understand there are things we have to do as women, moms, and grandmas. Whatever your title is, there are tasks or appointments we should keep. One of those appointments is with ourselves. Did Jesus care for the needs of his own body? If so, how? 

Today I’d like to spend a few minutes on the language of rest and how Jesus understands the needs your body.

When do you rest?

  • Do you wait until your body is completely depleted?
  • Do you schedule rest?
  • Do you work your body as if it has infinite energy and then are flabbergasted when it shuts down?
  • Did you know enough about your body to know when it’s telling you to rest?
  • Do you feed your body the food it needs to work well?
  • Do you fuel your body often?

Answering these questions is a great starting point. For me, I used to wait until my body was shutting down before I rested. Now I schedule rest. I do sometimes still get flabbergasted when my body says, “STOP!” For instance, (last week) I’ve had two Easter Egg hunts on consecutive days, followed by a doctor’s appointment the next day, and then more days of outings, including hiking, church, grocery shopping, running errands, and date night. Reading the list exhausts me. In fact, today I’m suffering from an introvert hangover after all the peopling I’ve done. (If you’re an introvert and want to know more about the science, embracing your introvert-self, check out Holley Gerth’s – The Powerful Purpose of Introverts.) How did you answer these questions?

Getting to Know YOurself

  • Do you know yourself?
  • Do you know what stresses you?
  • What energizes you?
  • What exhausts you?
  • Which foods give you energy?
  • Which foods leave you feeling wired, tired, bloated, or fill in the blank.

If you read last week’s article, you’ll know I followed the voice of trauma and survival mode for years. I didn’t know myself at all. I even went so far as thinking I was being sinful if I took time to know myself or do anything for myself. If you think that way, it’s not true. Not Biblical. Not how Jesus sees things. He not only promises to give us heavy-burdened, trauma-driven, codependent, perfectionists REST, He says He will “ease, relieve, and refresh our souls.” (Matthew 12: 28,29) Read that again and take a deep breath or two. Jesus cares about you and your body. He listened to and knew His own needs. Even though he is God, as a man, He became tired and needed a break. He needed rest and He knew the apostles did too. After they told Jesus all they had done and taught-

He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while”—for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.

Mark 6: 31

Find A Co-regualtor

On a comment on my Instagram post last week, I mentioned when we need to use the same parenting tools we employ with our kids who have experienced trauma with ourselves. We need to re-parent ourselves. Maybe you missed the season of co-regulation in your childhood. Maybe there was too much chaos in your home (or is now), and no one helped you know what your body was telling you. Basic things such as hunger, thirst, need for rest, and what we feel (anxiety, excitement, depression, uncertainty, joy) – all these feelings we need co-regulators guiding us. EVEN if you are an adult, you may need a co-regulator and some re-parenting!

I started the practice of reporting all I have done to my husband. It’s not for approval’s sake. It’s so he can weigh in and advise me. He’s often told me – “You do more on a rest day than most people do on a work day.” I had no clue. I thought everyone worked the way I did. Maybe you are the same and you don’t know how much you really push your body. Find someone to help you regulate until you can do it on your own. Do you have someone in mind? If you don’t pray about it?

Do you speak the language of rest? Share in the comments!

*If you struggle with knowing what your body is telling you, take some time this week and answer all the questions in this article in a journal or on you phone. If you struggle with knowing the answers, you may not speak the language of rest. Ask a trusted close friend or spouse to help you begin to recognize what your body is telling you or find a counselor.

Six Risk Factors

“A scar is evidence of a wound, but also evidence that we can heal.”- Scott McClellan

I didn’t think it would be this hard.

My child’s behaviors are out of control.

He got kicked off the school bus AGAIN.

He keeps punching kids in line.

The whole house is like a war zone.

I thought I could do this, but I don’t know if I can. It’s just too hard.

 

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I’ve heard these statements along with pleas for help from countless parents. I have offered to come into the home and do some observation, as well as get some parenting tools that work into the hands of the parents. It seems as if every time, the parent says, “Oh, he/she is so manipulative, I don’t know.” As if the child will pull the wool over my eyes (as he may do with some professionals or teachers) or their situation is so unique, so individual that I won’t be able to grasp it. It is this pit of ‘aloneness’ that foster and adoptive parents feel. No one else struggles like you. Nobody understands. We adoptive/foster parents may feel as if we have slipped an Alfred Hitchcock are captives who will never escape.   To move forward with understanding, we must first have knowledge.

Every behavior is a need inappropriately expressed.  Foster/Adopted children have had trauma in their lives. Trauma changes the neurochemistry of the brain in these children.

In adoption/foster circles we hear the phrase ‘children from hard places’. As Ryan North, Executive Director of Tapestry Ministries, reminds us, this is not a geographical location. As explained in The Connected Child, there are six primary risk factors that characterize children from hard places:

  1. Prenatal stress and harm-over 80% of children adopted/foster care have been exposed to drugs or alcohol, cortisol crosses the placenta and alters the structure of the brain and damages the immune system* story of the woman stressed in pregnancy- measured her cortisol levels and those of her infant six months after delivery.
  2. Difficult labor or birth Twin example- one born at home, one at a hospital after a 45-minute ride to the hospital
  3. Early medical trauma Hospital stay, surgery, etc.
  4. Trauma- a house fire, natural disaster, auto accident, death of a parent
  5. Neglect-  says “You don’t exist.”
  6. Abuse – says “You don’t matter.”

Five things are impacted by early trauma (any one of the six risk factors)

  1. Brain- altered brain development, overactive amygdala. It’s as if the child is chased by a bear all the time. Our experiences shape the connections in our brain. Hebbian principle- what fires together wires together.
  2. Biology- Neurochemistry is altered. Hormones altered. Serotonin is often low. Dopamine is low or high. Some young children have the adrenals of a ninety-year-old.
  3. Body- Learning delays, developmental delays, sensory issues
  4. Beliefs- What’s one firmly held belief that you have? What would it take you to change that belief? Kids from hard places often believe: People don’t love me because I’m not worthy. If I was worth something, people won’t treat me this way. Everyone leaves.
  5. Behavior Regulation. Co-regulation. Self Regulation. – A child from hard places has difficulty regulating because he has not had the natural progression. Remember, a behavior is a need inappropriately expressed. Fight, Flight, Freeze mode is often what kids from hard places get stuck in.

Traditional parenting doesn’t work with these kids. In the ETC course for adoptive/foster parents, we teach 25 parenting tools to help these kids have hope and healing. The tools are based on the model TBRI- Trust-Based Relational Intervention, created by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at TCU in Texas. This approach was turned into a training curriculum by Michael Monroe and Dr. Purvis called ETC Training for Adoptive and Foster Parents. 

If you’re struggling with helping your adoptive/foster child heal and make progress, check out ETC Training, find one in your area here.

If you are local and want Kathleen to come do a training for parents or professionals- email her at Postiveadoption@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Co-regulation & Self Regulation

Last Wednesday, I promised to follow up on my three points on Burden Bearing Mothers. Today, I am talking about number one.

Children from hard places CAN’T, Not WON’T bear their own burdens. They cannot self-regulate.

He ran through the house, knocking chairs over and books off the shelves. “I can’t get him to behave,” his mother said. She covered her face with her hands and wept. “I didn’t know adoption would be this hard. I don’t know if I can do this!”

Maybe you feel this way about an adopted, foster or your own special needs child. It seems as if the child is a cyclone of Dysregulated behavior. While everyone else sits quietly, he is constantly moving, rocking, pounding or getting up every two seconds. He just cant’ control himself. That is, he cannot regulate.

“A two year-old is adopted from an orphanage where she was underfed, under-touched, and neglected. From lack of stimulation, her sense have not developed normally. In her new adoptive home, she is bombarded by unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations, and she is bewildered by the social expectations in the unfamiliar environment. Her impoverished early life makes it impossible for her to keep up, and she becomes overwhelmed with stress and frustration. She expresses herself the only way she knows how-through tantrums and aggressiveness.”-The Connected Child

When and how do children learn regulation?

A child learns to regulate through co-regulation. Mother regulates for him first. She wraps him in a blanket when he is cold. She feeds him when he is hungry. Changes his wet diaper. Smiles when he is content. He picks up these expressions and feelings through the mirror effect.

We say a child is unable to regulate when he cannot control his impulses or doesn’t recognize the needs of his own body. He doesn’t recognize thirst or hunger because no one fed him regularly in his early life or he has developed sensory issues. He wears a coat when it eighty degrees or shorts when it is twenty. He has impulse control issues. He grabs what is not his. He stuffs food in his mouth that belongs to a sibling. We see these as ‘bad behaviors’ that we want to snuff out.

A child who missed out on the co-regulation steps of his early life cannot regulate.

Jacob is a great biblical example of the inability to regulate.

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.[d])

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Genesis 25: 19-33

Jacob had no impulse control. He couldn’t wait for food. He didn’t consider the consequences. We don’t know much about his early life, how he was parented, other than his mother favored him. We can assume from his behavior that he struggled with regulation. After Jacob sold his birthright, he spent much of his life in fight, flight or freeze. He ran, deceived and hid. And one night, God came to him and promised to watch over and care for him. Later, he wrestled with God. Literally. And he trusted God.

There is hope, Mothers, for the child who cannot regulate. For the one who is impulsive. The one who lies. The one stuck in survival mode. The one who does things that leaves us scratching our heads.

Each of our children are chosen, before the foundation of the world, in the mother’s womb they were formed. Don’t let the current behavior form prophecies of doom in your mind. Pray the word. Speak the word over your child while he sleeps.

What are some other practical steps you can follow to help this child?

  1. Food and water every two hours
  2. Ask him, “What do you need?” instead of “What’s wrong?”
  3. Give him words if he has none.
  4. Ask questions that activate the upstairs brain.
  5. Teach him some coping skills, listening to music,  jumping on a trampoline, journaling in pics, etc….

These practices sound simple, but children who cannot regulate need someone to do it for them. If they don’t recognize their body’s signals, they walk around slightly dehydrated and hungry. Asking them what is wrong makes them slow down and process. Don’t be in a hurry or think they always know. That is why we must give them words if they have none. It looks like you need a break, do you? that sort of thing. When the child is ready, move onto asking questions, “how do you think we could solve this problem?” Finally, teach him some coping skills that match his personality. This is self-regulation. Don’t ask a kid who is not keen on sports to use running as a coping skill. Mothers, you know your child, work with him until together you find something that helps. Be patient with yourself and the child. This is investment parenting, not drive through instant parenting. It is a marathon with lots of water breaks and great views. Enjoy the journey.

Linking up with Kristin Taylor for Three Word Wednesday, join us!

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