Thursday, 12 September 2013

Yet More Stories from the Circle of Security ~ 6th September

Wednesday evening was our final workshop - and work we did! The nature of the work required us to reflect, consider, acknowledge and then discover there is not just one option of how to respond to our children but many. Over the last week members of our group considered their children’s expressed behaviours and emotions that triggered their “Shark Music” (refer to More stories from the Circle of Security ~ 30th August ).

We watched clips from Romulus, My Father – adapted from the book by the same name written by the writer and philosopher Raimond Gaita.  After the death of his father, Raimond Gaita wrote his boyhood memories in his attempt to recount and understand both his mother and father’s struggle to be the best parents they could be given their circumstances.  Migrants to Australia in the 1950s, his parents struggled to adapt, manage and thrive in their new country.  We see their love for Raimond, and we see their limitations.
We see a father who, at times, used fear in order to instill obedience in Raimond.  This was the way of parenting he had learnt from his parents.  When the little boy did not tell the truth about stealing his razor his father beat him “for his own good”.  We see his mother suffer sadness and depression who, as a result, was often unable to be the grown up and look after her children.

Raimond experienced a style of parenting that involved meanness and weakness at the times his parents were struggling with their own demons from their past.  In other words, they were at times unable to “BE WITH” their son’s feelings of anger, sadness and shame because they were struggling with their own fears.  They were hearing their Shark Music at full volume. Raimond was left to organise his own feelings and often had to be the “Parent” of his parents.

The research is clear that a fear based relationship with the main caregiver/parent does much more harm to children than it prevents. We as parents were once children.  Our knowledge of how to be a parent comes from our experiences of being parented and from other adults who play a key role in our lives.  We know that our parents did the very best they could with what knowledge and experience they had. 

Ideas, laws and attitudes change over time and differ from place and between cultures.   What was acceptable as a method of parenting during one generation will alter to the next.  A thrashing with a cane administered by a teacher to a child was once regarded as reasonable behaviour management. It is now recognised as child abuse and reflected in law as such.

We talked about the importance of reflection.  Imagine how it might feel for our children to be on the receiving end of our words and actions when our Shark Music is triggered? Frightening.

We want our children to fear danger, not us. The more we know and reflect upon our fear, the easier it is to choose security.  When we can recognise our own struggles and seek help and support from another safe adult or professional, we are more likely to reflect and make changes that benefit our children rather than act-out our fear.

The Circle of Security is more about learning a way of being than a series of techniques.  When our children act out, they are actually trying to get help managing their genuine needs.  Underneath the challenging behaviour, a child is saying: “I need you and I don’t know what to do with what I’m feeling.”  

The quality of a relationship is the solution and to have this quality we need to be ready to repair any rupture.  If we consider a child’s behaviour is like a smoke alarm, we may grab the fire extinguisher and hose off the alarm when it goes off, by which time the kitchen might have burnt down.  What if your child’s difficult behaviour is an alarm trying to alert you to what they really need?

When we see our child as the problem, we take our hands off the “circle” and leave our child without “hands” to help them organise their feelings.  Children don’t feel secure because we never make mistakes. What makes children feel secure is the knowledge that when we make mistakes they can be repaired. Just imagine a time when you were upset and without any support and then a time when you felt understood and helped.

“Time Out “is often used as a punishment but in the Circle of Security we learn that “Time Out” is for us as adults to calm down.  Children learn best when they feel calm, safe and securely connected. Discipline is about helping children learn to make better choices not about making them feel bad.

So if “Time Out” is for us, it is a way of preparing “ Time In” for our children.  In this calm connection we can help our children have a learning moment not a lecturing one.  If there has been a rupture, we need to take responsibility for our part and help our children see what went wrong for them.  By reflecting with our children on behaviours and feelings, we can learn how to do it differently next time. With “Time Ins”, like many things worth learning, the first 500 times are always the hardest.  

I think the Circle of Security has provided the parents who attended time to reflect and consider what they see in a different way.  My advice is to talk with those parents and ask them how it has helped them to connect with their children and improve the quality of their relationship in safety and security.

Maybe you are ready to sign up for the next series of Workshops in Term 4.  I hope so! 

Hilary Campos
SHPSH Social Worker                

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

More Stories from the Circle of Security ~ 30th August

As the week draws to a close I reflect upon my work across my four schools.

I met with parents for a final workshop;  a reunion of parents who have completed the workshops in term two;  and on Wednesday evening met with parents here at Sacred Heart for our third workshop. I am excited to hear that children are noticing a difference in their parents!

Some comments from our wise little ones:
“I’m glad you went on that course Mummy, you’re much nicer now.”
“Dad didn’t shout once whilst you were away Mum.”
“It’s more peaceful and you’re not all shouty now Mummy.” 

Parents say they have been putting into practice the things they have learnt from the Circle of Security and guess what……….as they change their responses to what they see……..they witness change in their children’s responses. The outcome is different.

This week we learnt about “Shark Music” and yes it has got to do with “Jaws”. We watched a movie clip of a beautiful ocean scene on a sunny day.  The camera led us down a leafy track to a welcoming beach of warm sand and an inviting sea.  The background music was uplifting and quite delightful. We then watched the same movie clip, this time with the theme tune of the film “Jaws” playing in the background. 

We discussed how we felt as we watched the first clip and then noticed any changes in our feelings whilst watching the second clip .For the first clip, I heard “Peaceful, happy, relaxed, lovely day, no worries” . Words such as “ anxious, cautious, alert” were shared in relation to the second clip.“ I was worried someone was going to jump out of the bushes.”  It was difficult to believe the clip was exactly the same, only the music had been altered in each of the clips.

What has this got to do with us being a safe haven where we can delight in our children and from where our children can go out to explore and return for comfort, protection and receive help to organise their feelings? 

Well, sometimes, there are certain needs that our children express which trigger uncomfortable feelings in us. This is when we hear our” Shark Music”. For example, it’s the weekend.  You have a little bit of time to “Be With” your child before you move on to the next job.  You are curled up on the sofa, reading and watching your child play with her toys by your feet.  It is peaceful , so are you and your little one is happy . This is like clip one.  Your music is likely to be melodic, gentle and soothing.

However,  your little one cannot get her toy to do what she wants it to do.  She cries.  You don’t respond straightaway thinking she will be all right in a minute.  She isn’t.  The crying persists and gets louder and louder.

Cue your “ Shark Music”.  You are triggered and the scary movie begins. You are distressed and very uncomfortable and have to put a stop to the crying, by whatever means you have.

Clip two has begun.  Even though it is still the safe, happy scene from clip one, now your “Shark Music”  has begun to play you have lost sight of clip one.

It is important for us to recognise when our “Shark Music “ is triggered.

 Some parents struggle with “Being With” their sad child.

“ Don’t be sad, there is nothing to be sad about.”
“ If you are sad you will make me sad.”
“Stop it now otherwise I will give you something to cry about.”  
We often ask our children how they  feel  and then if it is a feeling we think they “shouldn't” feel   or we feel guilty because we think we might be the cause of this feeling, we tell them not to feel this way.

Then again, we may struggle with “Being With” our child when she/he is angry, in shame, frightened, curious or even in joy.

We “cue “ and “ miscue” each other throughout the day within our relationships.
For example: You are looking forward to seeing your child as you go to the child care.  When you get there, your child cues you with a big smile so you hold out your arms as a cue to come in for a hug.
You are looking forward to seeing your daughter as you go to the childcare.  When you get there, your child looks up and says, “I’m having fun.” And returns to the game.  Hearing your “Shark Music” you think your child is rejecting you, so you miscue her and turn away.

One of the primary purposes of the Circle of Security is to help our children learn what is safe and what is dangerous.

When we meet our children’s needs for exploration, we allow them to be separate from us. When we welcome them back for comfort and for help in organising their feelings, our child learns to fear danger and that is a good thing.

When our “ Shark Music” limits us and our children learn to fear either separation , closeness or both, our child is unlikely to feel connected to us or secure or confident that we are the grown ups.

The good news is that once we know what “ Shark Music” is and when it is triggered, we can then learn how to soothe and cope with our discomfort and still be able to be the bigger, stronger, wiser and kinder adult. 

That’s all for now folks. Listen out for Jaws and remember to turn onto a new channel. It’s never too late to change and we can choose to ask for help . 

We may be the grown-ups but we also need to experience other grown-ups “ Being With” us if we are to be able to “ Be With” our children.  
Hilary Campos
SHPSH Social Worker