Monday, April 18, 2011

The 'Chill out" space

***This post is to go along with Foster 2 Forever's bloghop theme of the week which is Challenges/Trauma/Neglect.***

I have a daughter that does not calm down easily. Because of this, I keep our schedule pretty boring and predictable. Two weeks ago I wrote a post about babies and attachment and a few weeks ago wrote a piece on attachment as well.

I wanted to write about our challenges here at home and a couple of the strategies I use with Tigger to calm her down.

When Tigger melts down, it’s complete chaos. There is shaking, uncontrollable crying, anger, frustration, something that resembles a throw down tantrum, and hurt feelings. Sometimes trying to talk to her or holding her backfires and the screams and fits get louder and louder, until there is a method that calms her down.

One method is to use my glider. While at this point she loves rocking before going to sleep, when she’s in one of her meltdown moments at first she fights sitting with me in the glider. She would rather be thrashing around on the floor. Sometimes I’m frustrated as well, depending on the stress at work that day, however, I do refocus my thinking and make an effort to count and have a calm demeanor…we then start rocking. Calming down will usually happen in about 20-30 minutes.

Another method that I use is the “chill out” space. This method is actually preferred by Tigger as I think it gives her permission to get her feelings out as well as I do believe it’s a safe place for her. I have a beanbag in her room, and if she needs to ‘let it out’ for some reason…most of the time, I can sense it’s due to being tired or frustration so I try not to make it a big deal. I simply state that she needs to go to her chill out space and then she can come back for a hug when she feels she is ready (I’m usually still in the same room or within her sight). She doesn’t escape, she prefers to stay there and will stay there until she is done. I know it’s been effective when she comes to me and is receptive to a hug.

Some days are draining, some days I feel it helps. As a licensed foster parent that adopted a young child/older infant, part of the challenge is that the child is pre-verbal to the emerging level of language and so there is guess work as to why the meltdowns occur. Sure I know the age of Tigger makes many of these behaviors ‘typical’ and ‘age-appropriate’, I also know that part of Tigger’s personality is a child that has a capacity for sensitivity and a long memory which is also part of the challenge of making sure boundaries are in place as well as making sure Tigger‘s attachment and security needs are met.

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