10 Simple Ways to Build an Unbreakable Bond With Your Child, by Angela Pruess

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Our connection to our children means everything.

It means the difference between a confident child and an insecure one. It means the difference between a cooperative child and a defiant one. Our early attachments and ongoing connection to our children fostered through love, nurturance, and guidance is a strong predictor of our child’s success in many areas of life.

We’ve heard a lot about attachment, so the concept and importance of bonding with our baby seems obvious. Just because your little one has grown to become a lot bigger, smellier, and sassier doesn’t mean your bond and connection with them is any less vital to their development. In fact, it continues to be of the utmost importance throughout childhood.

Life with kids is busy. It’s not uncommon at the end of the day to find yourself wondering whether you even sat face to face with your child. Here’s the good news: You’re likely already engaging with your child in activities that promote a strong parent-child relationship.

Reading

We all know reading with children is a simple way to improve their language and reading skills. But research also shows that reading with children actually stimulates patterns of brain development responsible for connection and bonding.

This makes sense when we consider that story time usually involves cuddling, eye contact, and shared emotion. If you make reading together a priority in your home, you are without a doubt connecting with your child.

Art

Engaging in art or craft activities with children is an awesome way to provide not only a fun and enjoyable experience, but a therapeutic one as well. No matter their age, you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who can’t find an art medium that interests him.

When engaged in a creative process with children, we provide an outlet for them to express their thoughts and feelings. This is especially true with younger children, who aren’t yet able to verbalize their complex emotions. When your child has access to acreative outlet, odds are that interactions between the two of you will be more positive.

Music

Whether listening to them play an instrument or dancing to the “Trolls” soundtrack together, music offers lots of benefits for both parent and child, including bringing our awareness into our bodies and into the current moment. Your kids will be practicing mindfulness without even knowing it!

It’s pretty difficult to focus on a mistake at school yesterday or the test coming up tomorrow when we’re busy processing auditory input as well as coordinating our motor skills.

Nature

Feeling stressed? Stress is often a huge barrier to parents engaging with their children. Spending time with your child out in nature will go a long way to increase emotional health and physical well-being for both parties.

Research tells us that exposure to nature reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, as well as the production of stress hormones. Nature is no joke. Even if you don’t have time to go for a hike, simply water a plant together. These studies show similar effects can be derived from even small amounts of nature.

Play

Play is the language of children, so it only makes sense that we should try to connect with them though something that comes so naturally. When parents enter their child’s world and follow their lead in play, they open up the possibility for many positive outcomes, including taking on a different relationship role and seeing our children from a new perspective.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-simple-ways-to-build-an-unbreakable-bond-with-your-child/

Press release: UN to examine New Zealand’s approach to child rights

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Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley leads a New Zealand delegation to Geneva this week to report on the nation’s children and whether their rights are being upheld.

UNICEF New Zealand Executive Director Vivien Maidaborn is also in Geneva as part of the delegation and said the child rights’ agency welcomed Minister Tolley’s attendance.

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“We support the Minister’s leadership and direct involvement in closing the gap between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and New Zealand’s patchy progress to achieve these rights, especially for Māori children.”

“Previous reviews by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) have been extremely critical of successive governments’ progress for children.”

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Ms Maidaborn went on to say this was the fifth such review from the UNCRC but only the first time a minister had led the delegation.

Non-government agencies such as UNICEF NZ, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa are also in Geneva for the review, alongside Judge Andrew Becroft, the Children’s Commissioner.

Ms Maidaborn said that alternative reports, written by community agencies and independent advisors, ensure the UNCRC committee can ask the right questions about government’s activities.

“It’s vital that non-government agencies are in the room to monitor what government tells the UNCRC. The transparency of the process couldn’t be more vital, both for New Zealanders back home and the international community at large.”

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Save the Children, UNICEF NZ and ACYA recently supported young New Zealanders to make their views on child rights known. This resulted in a report published this week entitled Our Voices, Our Rights which will also inform questions UNCRC ask the New Zealand government in the exam.

The UNCROC Monitoring Group have felt that in the past only minimal effort has been made by government to consult with children. These consultations were often adult-led, based around specific policy purposes and didn’t include versions that were child friendly.

UNICEF New Zealand Child Rights Advocate Dr Prudence Stone said 1198 children from all around the country participated in the initiative and some of the findings were alarming.

“Thirty-eight per cent of children who participated didn’t know what their rights were. Only four children knew it was actually their right to know, and that government was responsible for ensuring they had this knowledge.”

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(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.cid.org.nz/news/un-to-examine-new-zealands-approach-to-child-rights/

Acknowledging Past Institutional Child Sexual Abuse In Aotearoa/ New Zealand and Ensuring the Protection of Vulnerable Children in the Future, by Grant West and Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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My name is Grant West I am a survivor of child sexual abuse in New Zealand. My abuse was by many different people in government-run institutions.

I am now travelling New Zealand collecting signatures on a petition calling for a Royal Commission Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I started in Dunedin and have travelled the South Island. I will be in Wellington on the 14th August 2016 to start to collect signatures on the petition from the 15th 16th 17th and 18th in the Cuba Mall.

I will be traveling the North Island to Lake Taupo and Rotorua from the 20th until the 23rd and then on to Hamilton from the 23rd until the 26th. From there I will be heading for Auckland, staying there until the 14th of September when I will fly back to Wellington too hand over the petition to three MPs on the steps of Parliament on the 15th of September at 1:15 pm.

I am asking for changes to the Australian and New Zealand Royal Commission.   As I am funding this out of my own money. I need help to be able to pay for things like the car hire and accommodation and petrol. So please if you can help me out and give a little bit that would help. New Zealanders: ANZ 06-0909-0439736-00   And Australians: Westpac BSB 033-607 ACC 000796  Even If anyone concerned out there gave a dollar or two, It would add up and help the cause.

With everyone signing the petition your signature is taking back the power from the government of New Zealand and putting it back in the hands of the people. Thank you for your support. My Facebook webpage is Silence No More NZ please go there and have a look.

I am here to stop the sexual abuse of New Zealand children and to give all victims and survivors, including and those that are no longer with us, a voice.

 

The following is from an interview Grant West recently gave to the Australian newspaper The Courier.

r52_143_3280_4227_w1200_h678_fmaxWhen Grant West was eight he was placed in juvenile detention after he was caught by police attempting to burn down a Presbyterian Church. 

It would be the first of many desperate attempts Mr West would make to end a cycle of horrific sexual abuse inflicted on him from the age of four. 

Mr West told The Courier he was the victim of intrafamilial sexual abuse before he was raped by a church minister at the age of six.

He become a ward of the state until the age eight and were abused up until the age 16.

He spoke of systematic beatings, sadistic sexual abuse and culture of fear at the boys home which was run by the former Department of Social Welfare from the 1960s through to the 1980s.

“I was shoved into a cell and beaten to a pulp,” Mr West said.

“The first night I was made to stand naked in the shower while they turned a high pressure fire hose on me. It wasn’t long after that the night-watchmen started sexually abusing me.” 

Mr West, has lived in Ballarat for more than a decade.

He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has made multiple attempts to end his life. 

While one of his perpetrators is in jail in New Zealand, others have died without ever being prosecuted. 

Mr West has made it his mission to protect future generations of children and get justice for scores of child sexual abuse victims in New Zealand. 

He is calling for the New Zealand federal government to roll-out an independent royal commission mirroring Australia’s child sex abuse inquiry.

He plans on travelling around New Zealand to get more than 200,000 signatures for petition which will be lodged in parliament.

He has returned to New Zealand because he wants to see changes to the system in his home country.

“We are asking for all institutions who care for children to have mandatory reporting of sexual abuse cases,” he said. “This is about changing the way we deal with children.”

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Grant West, right and supporter Pete Chapman are collecting signatures calling for a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/83075972/kiwi-expat-calling-for-royal-commission-inquiry-into-child-sex-abuse

Related You-tube Video…

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How to Get Kids to Listen To You and Do What They Are Asked To, by Cally Worden

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Can you imagine how simple life would be if your children just did what you asked of them, when you asked it?

Better yet, what if they would do things they are supposed to even before you had to ask them?

No argument.

No battle-of-wills.

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Before I discovered the joys of positive parenting I wouldn’t have believed this was even possible.

Back then, I couldn’t even figure out how to get kids to listen to me, let alone get them to do what they were asked. Even simple requests for a specific action or a change of behavior from my kids could oh-so-easily escalate into monster power struggles.

And frankly, it was wearing me out.

Here are just four of many simple requests I can recall that got totally out of control – I’m sure they will sound familiar in various ways:

Me: Can you please bring your cup through to the kitchen?
My Daughter: In a minute Mom … (and she is lost in the TV program again)

Me:  Kicking your sister is not okay
(Cue defiant stare and a sneaky swift kick to his sister’s ankle.)

Me: Time to clean up kids, could you please clear the coloring things away?
My Daughter: Why should I? They’re not all mine!

Me: We don’t play with the knobs on the cooker, it’s dangerous
(30 seconds later little fingers have fiddled again.)

Each time, my hackles rose, my inner power-switch flipped to ‘On’. I’m in charge here right? I would assert my authority (via a raised voice, angry stare, threats of time out, and so on).

And I would eventually ‘win’.

But when we were done and the tears had dried, I would feel wretched inside. And my weary brain would crave relief and I would wonder – Is it bedtime yet?

It was a hollow victory.

My kids were sad. I was sad.

Sure, they jangle my nerves sometimes, but most of the time, they are fun, loving and amazing kids. I didn’t want to spend their entire childhood looking forward to bedtime. I wanted to spend time with them and enjoy it.

So I got to thinking – is there some other way to get them to listen to me and do as they are asked without all this stress and drama?

Thankfully, there is. And it works too.

Armed with my action plan, scenarios like these not only arise less often but when they do, they are quickly and quietly diffused into a peaceful mist of calm. Well, more often than not. We don’t always hit the target (hey, I’m human too) but our home has been transformed by this fresh approach.

To be the peaceful, positive parent you’ve
always wanted to be, get our FREE mini-course
How to Be a Positive Parent.

Below, I’ve put together a list of what works for us. Take a look and see what you think. And throughout, remember that you don’t need to raise your voice and gear up for a fight to get your kids to listen to you. You don’t want to be an opponent. What your kids need is an ally. A calming presence. Assume that role in your head, and you will be ready to address their need.

Here we go –

1: Employ Empathy

Stepping into your child’s shoes may feel like the very last thing you want to do when your own personal focus is on your desire to arrest a behavior, or to get something done.

But step back from that a moment and think about it.

You are focusing on your agenda — the desire to get what you want, to the exclusion of what’s important to your child in that moment.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://afineparent.com/positive-parenting-faq/how-to-get-kids-to-listen.html

Six things every parent should know about Pokémon Go, by Christian Gallen

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For the first time in history you may hear your kids complain that it’s raining so they can’t go outside and play video games. This is the parents’ guide to the newest social phenomenon that has taken over the world.

1. What is Pokémon Go?

You have probably come across Pokémon before. It’s Japanese for ‘pocket monsters’. You may even be familiar with Pikachu. Pokémon has been around for ages and spans video games, TV shows, a trading card game and now has become super popular because of the smart phone app, Pokémon Go. Chances are your kids are playing it!

2. How does it work?

Pokemon-Go-001-292x300The basic idea of the game is that you travel around the real world and find Pokémon using your device. There are 250 different types of Pokémon out there. If your kid comes home excited about catching Bulbasaur there’s nothing to worry about. It’s not a drug or a disease. It’s a grass type Pokémon with razor leaf attack. You collect them and battle against other users. Your kid doesn’t need hand-eye coordination to catch Pokémon – just a fully-charged smartphone and access to the internet.

This week I saw a group of teenagers running laps around a park with their phones in front of their faces. They were outdoors with their friends, they were exercising and they were playing a video game all at the same time. Weird.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.theparentingplace.com/blogs/a-parents-guide-to-pokemon-go/

“The Dunedin Study”: Early Indicators of Schizophrenia, by Kirsteen Mclay-Knopp

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Continuing  our series of articles on findings discovered by the “Dunedin Longitudinal Study”

The Dunedin Study’s findings on predictability early in childhood of a later onset of schizophrenia, are revolutionary… and potentially life changing.  Before we continue, however, here is a description of the mental health condition known as “schizophrenia”:

When a person has schizophrenia they go through patches where it is hard to think clearly, manage their emotions, distinguish what is real and what is not, and relate to others.  They may have times when they lose contact with reality. This can all be very frightening.  Schizophrenia most often begins between the ages of 15 and 30 years, occurring for the first time slightly earlier in men than in women. Schizophrenia happens in approximately the same numbers across all ethnic groups. The onset of schizophrenia can be quite quick. Someone who has previously been healthy and coped well with their usual activities and relationships can develop psychosis (loss of contact with reality) over a number of weeks. That said, symptoms may also develop slowly, with the ability to function in everyday life declining over a number of years.  The course of schizophrenia is very variable.  Everyone experiences it differently and most will make a reasonable recovery, going on to lead a fulfilling life. About one third of people experiencing schizophrenia will have ongoing problems, perhaps with continuing symptoms such as hearing voices.   [Source:  Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand].

This illness is serious then, both in its effects on the individuals with schizophrenia and on those who live with them.   The Dunedin Longitudinal Study asked participants whether they had ever heard voices or seen things which were not there.  The participants, born in 1972-1973, were asked this question at the age of 11 years.  Twenty-five years later, it was discovered that, of those participants who said they had heard voices or seen things which were not there, half had then gone on to develop schizophrenia.  Prior to this study, children had never been asked about such things.  There had never, previously, been any measured indicator of schizophrenia in children and it was assumed that it was an “adult disease” (beginning somewhere between the ages of 15 and 30 years, as indicated in our definition, above).   This is a major breakthrough, as it means we are now able to identify children at risk of developing schizophrenia and intervene with help for those who need it earlier, before their whole lives are affected.

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Following on from this, The Dunedin Study hopes to identify why 50% of children with “indicators” did not then go on to develop schizophrenia… and whether there might be a “nurture” component which makes individuals with indicators more vulnerable.  Many children have “imaginary friends” and play elaborate, imaginary games which seem almost “real” in their developing minds.  As well as this, we have the influence of social media, movies and television.  However, the difference between imaginative play versus “hearing voices” and “seeing things” which are not there is a concern when these are early indicators of schizophrenia in 50% of those who experience them.

Participants found to have a shorter version than normal of the 5HTT Seratonin Transporter gene had a higher incidence of clinical depression and attempted suicide.  (There have even been arguments made that this should be a marker when making decisions such as whether or not a child should be removed from a damaging home situation).  With regards to schizophrenia, it was discovered that those with this shorter than normal 5HTT were more likely to present with the disease as adults if they used cannabis.  (This was also dependent on how young participants were when they began using cannabis and how long their use was continued… younger use and higher rates of use dramatically increases chances of schizophrenia, when participants also had the 5HTT gene).

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Another test done by The Dunedin Study on participants at age 38, found that adults who had been diagnosed as having schizophrenia had wider venules (very small veins) at the back of their eyes than those who had not been.  The only other group with wider than normal eye venules were those participants who had high blood pressure.  This has led to the understanding that “blood flow” is an accurate measure of schizophrenia– not only blood flow in the eye venules, but also general blood flow all over the brain.  This lends itself to the question of whether the difference in blood flow (between those who have and those who do not have schizophrenia is a “cause or effect” of the disease.  Current research would tend to suggest it is causal.

In the USA alone, about $50 million is spent annually on support for those with schizophrenia.  If the vascular (blood flow) theory is correct, the next step would be to develop possible ‘treatments’ or preventative measures from early on in life (reacting to indicators in children).  One possible treatment would involve oxygen supplementation for children identified as having wider venules at the back of their eyes, plus indicators (hearing voices, seeing things which aren’t there).

As an interesting side finding, participants in The Dunedin Study who were found, at age 38, to have wider venules at the back of their eyes also tended to have a lower IQ as children.  This implies that prevention of wider venules in those deemed at risk could also help alleviate a range of other related and currently untreatable issues.   As in the case of those children who presented as being at risk of schizophrenia, prevention would result in a positive shift in life trajectory.

The more we look at the findings of The Dunedin Longitudinal Study, then, the more we see possibilities for the positive altering of life trajectories, if intervention occurs early.  We at The Forever Years feel excited by the future potential for a positive way forward and the sculpting of optimal life trajectories that this offers for all our children everywhere.  Aside from anything else, study findings show that “The Forever Years” (childhood) really are years which affect us for the rest of our lives not only mentally, but also physically.  The more systems are put in place to monitor our children and react to indicators of future issues at an early stage, the greater the chance we have for positive change.

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The Death Question: when your child asks “will you die?” By Anca Aurora Deaconu

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Children become aware of death at a young age, sometimes younger than we’d expect or are comfortable with. So when your child asks “will you die?” it can be hard to deal with. Hand in Hand Instructor Anca Deaconu’s son first showed his concerns through play.

“We were having special time and I was his old cat, one that he was afraid might die soon,” she says.

Not long after that, he started to ask specific questions about my grandfather, who passed away and about a dog I used to have. Later, when I got stung by a bee, he expressed his fear openly.

Will you die, mommy?

His questions haven’t stopped there. “Who would take care of me if I die,” he asks.

I tell him about the big, caring family that we are blessed with. I also mention the fact that I plan on being around for a long time and am actually actively working on that – it’s the reason we are careful about what we eat and why we spend so much time outdoors taking all those long walks, I tell him. These are things we do to help us lead long and healthy lives, I explain.

In her book, Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting ChallengesHand in Hand’s founder Patty Wipfler explains that avoiding children’s fears can be counter-productive: It’s better to face them head on, she says.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/06/child-asks-will-you-die/

All you need is Love Bombing, by Oliver James, psychologist

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In March 2010 I received an email from Miranda. She wrote that her son Tim, nine, “seems to not like himself and has no focus. He says he hates himself and that he’s rubbish at everything”. A bright boy, Tim refused to do his homework and was prone to temper tantrums.

The solution I proposed was love bombing, a method I developed to reset the emotional thermostats of children aged three to puberty. It entails spending a period of time alone with your child, offering them unlimited love and control. It works for a wide variety of common problems, severe or mild; from defiant – even violent – aggression to shyness, sleeping problems or underperformance at school.

This is not the same as “quality time” – just hanging out with your child. When you love bomb, you create a special emotional zone wholly different from normal life, with new rules. More than 100 families have tried it, nearly all with positive results.

So, how exactly does it work? First, you explain to your child that, sometime soon, the two of you are going to spend time together, one to one, and have a lot of fun. Your child is going to decide what they want and when they want it, within reason. You give the message that this is going to be a Big Event: It’s Coming Soon … How Exciting! The child then draws up a list of things to do. It doesn’t matter if it includes lots of SpongeBob SquarePants: the key is that your child has chosen it.

Throughout the experience, you are trying, as much as possible, to give them the feeling of “whatever I want, I get” – of being in control and of being gratified, as well as bombed with love.

You may be thinking: Is he mad? My child is a tyrant – rewarding him like that is just going to make it even worse! This is understandable. Love bombing seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which often recommends more control, not less, when a child is not complying, and stricter, firmer reactions to undesirable behaviour.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/22/oliver-james-love-bombing-children

“The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog”, by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. A Book Review and Analysis by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” a fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in child psychology or who works with traumatised children… or even if you just have a general interest in how our minds (and the developing minds of children in particular) respond to trauma.  The full title of this book is “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook, What Traumatized Children can Teach us about Loss, Love and Healing” and the authors are Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, and Maia Szalavitz.

One of the things I liked about this book was that, despite saying that traumatic events can “leave indelible marks on the mind [and the]…impact of PTSD [Post Traumatic Shock Disorder] is actually far greater on children than it is on adults” [p.2], the overall tone is positive and hopeful, both for children who have been affected by PTSD as a consequence of  severe abuse and/ or neglect or due to witnessing horrific events, as well as for adults affected by PTSD.   Bruce D. Perry, a child psychiatrist and Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy (USA and Canada) is the “voice” of this book, which he wrote together with Maia Szalavitz, an award winning journalist who specialises in science and health.  Perry compassionately and respectfully acknowledges the immense importance of “The Forever Years” (childhood) and the importance of investing in and creating a serious strategy of therapy for children  affected by trauma.

As a “lay person” (non-psychiatrist) I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” clear and self-explanatory.   On page 21 there is an excellent description of how our human brain develops: …“there are four major parts of the brain: the brainstem, the diencephalon, the limbic system and the cortex.  The brain is organised from the inside out, like a house with increasingly complicated additions built on an old foundation.  The lower and most central regions of the brainstem and the diencephalon are the simplest.  They evolved first, and they develop first as a child grows.  As you move upward and outward, things get increasingly more complex with the limbic system.”

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Source: “The Boy who was raised as a Dog,” appendix, figure 2, p. 248.

The younger a child is when a traumatic event occurs, Perry says, the greater the affect on the lower and most central regions of the brain.  This, he explains, is “developmental trauma” (as opposed to inherent anxiety or stress disorders caused in utero or by genetics).  Trauma in early childhood causes “altered receptors” or heightened sensitivity to “threat”: an over-exaggerated “fight or flight” reaction, based on triggers which the person may not even  be consciously aware of themselves and which, in others who have not undergone similar trauma, would probably not cause such a reaction.  A clear indicator, Perry realised,  was that children with this “heightened sensitivity” had, even when calm and resting, an accelerated heart rate at a level significantly above that of their non-traumatised peers of the same age and gender.

The responses of traumatised children, Perry explains, can be to create more “chaos”, as this has been their “norm” in the past and brain pathways of accepting chaos as normality have been set up.  Adults who undertake social work or foster care, for example, should be aware of this.  “The responses of traumatised children are often misinterpreted.   …new situations are inherently stressful… attempting to take control of what they believe is the inevitable return to chaos, they appear to “provoke” it in order to make things feel more comfortable and predictable.   …we tend to prefer the “certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.”  This response to trauma can often cause serious problems for children when it is misunderstood by their caregivers.”  [p.55].

Following from this, Perry says that he and his colleagues recognised that “…the nature of a child’s relationships–both before and after trauma– seemed to play a critical role in shaping their response to it.  If safe, familiar and capable caregivers were made available to children, they tended to recover more easily, often showing no enduring negative effects of the traumatic event.  We knew that the “trauma-buffering” effect of relationships had to be mediated, somehow, by the brain.”  [p.66]

This is where the amazing capacity of our human brains to “heal” and create “new pathways”, even years after traumatic events which have occurred during early childhood (during the first, early stages of brain development) comes into play.

“…we tend to care for our children [and, interestingly, for ourselves as adults] the way we were cared for ourselves during our own childhoods, [so] a good “brain” history of a child begins with a history of the caregiver’s childhood and early experience.” [p.83].  Our “Forever Years”, then, are also effected by the “Forever Years” of those caring for us when we are young.  The diagnosis “failure to thrive” in a child ” (discussed on p.88) can stem from a parent or parents not having  thrived themselves during their own childhood years.   In extreme cases, even  when other, basic needs (such as for food, shelter and clothing) are met, if a carer is emotionally “distant” a child may fail to gain weight or be delayed in other ways (such as speech or other developmental milestones).  This is purely a “nurture” (or lack of nurture) issue, and nothing to do with anything innate in the child.  Perry talks about how until recently, doctors were “...unaware of the damage that neglect alone can do to the brain.  They assumed that something so clearly visible on scans had to be evidence of a genetic defect or intrauterine insult, such as exposure to toxins or disease; they couldn’t imagine that early environment alone could have such profound physical effects.” [p. 129].

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Neurologists say that the sizeable difference between these two brains of two different 3-year-olds has one primary cause: the way that their mothers treated them. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D./Ch Source: http://www.medicaldaily.com/chilling-brain-scans-show-impact-mothers-love-childs-brain-size-243328

“Fortunately the positive cycle is every bit as cascading and self-amplifying as the vicious cycle,” Perry says, [p.121] and while emotional scars may always be present, the intervention of a loving, understanding environment can reprogram reactions and triggers.  This is enormously positive  when considering the effect on  future social interactions (including romantic relationships) for traumatised children as they grow into adulthood and becomes parents themselves.  The more relationships are positively retained and jobs and parenting situations are handled in constructive ways, the stronger and more confident the “traumatised child now adult” will become, which in turn further aids healing of old, emotional scars.

Perry doesn’t just put this forward as a vague hypothesis, however.  Throughout “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” he gives concrete examples through case studies of real patients he has worked with (obviously, these children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy).   Each is an example of a child suffering from severe trauma, including the “boy who was raised as a dog,” who gives the book its title.  Through his work, Perry says, he and his colleagues “…only gradually came to understand how the sequential development of a child’s brain is affected by trauma and neglect.  It only gradually dawned on us that this understanding could help us find possible treatments. These insights led us to develop what we call the neurosequential approach to theraputic services for maltreated and traumatised children. [p.125].

I love the “neurosequential” approach Perry and his colleagues take, along with the immense positive ramifications it has for the children they are working with.  The nuerosequential approach works on the basis of assessing which areas in a patient’s brain have sustained damage or neglect from past experiences, and then addressing these one by one.   “We would use enrichment experiences and targeted therapies to help the affected brain areas in the order in which they were affected by neglect and trauma (hence the name neurosequential).  If we could document improved functioning following the first set of interventions, we would begin the second set appropriate  for the next brain region and developmental stage until, hopefully,… [the patient] would get to the point where his biological age and his developmental age would match.”  [p.139].

Just as our brains develop sequentially, then, neurosequential therapy is aimed at addressing “loss” in development (caused by abuse, neglect or trauma) in a sequential manner.  Perry uses the example of a boy called Connor (not his real name), now aged fourteen, who had suffered from severe neglect as a baby.  “In Connor’s case, It was clear that his problems had started in early infancy, when the lower and most central regions of the brain are actively developing.  These systems respond to rhythm and touch: the brainstem’s regulatory centres control heartbeat, the rise and fall of neurochemicals and hormones in the cycle of day and night, the beat of one’s walk and other patterns which must maintain a rhythmic order to function properly.” [pp.139-140].  For Connor, “treatment” began with massage therapy, as early neglect had left him with an aversion to touch which was affecting his ability to even make eye contact with others, and hence affecting his social relationships.

Perry goes on to describe the “levels” or “layers” of neurosequential therapy, each of which respond to and attempt to address a deficit caused by trauma earlier on.

White Layers

Touch

kangaroo-careTouch is, of course, our earliest form of validation and security from our carers.  This is the reason for the importance placed on giving newborn babies “skin to skin” contact and the psychological benefits of this can be seen throughout life.  (See previous articles on this blog about the importance of positive touch in early childhood and throughout life, by following the links below).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/infant-massage-nurturing-touch-and-self-care-for-the-caregiver-by-erin-e-sonnier-from-nurtured-child-nurtured-you

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/touch-as-nutrition-by-john-tuite/

Music and Movement

Many of us parents take our preschoolers to “Music and Movement” groups thinking that that’s just “what you do” and that it gives us a chance to socialise with other parents and connect with and focus on our children in a child-centred environment.  All of this is true and the benefits of music to our babies and children has been well documented.  (Again, there is a link to follow below if you would like to read an article about the benefits of music to our kids).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/5-ways-in-which-kids-benefit-from-learning-a-musical-instrument-by-justine-pierre/

After reading “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog”, I came to realise that, beyond being merely “beneficial”, music and movement are essential in brain development, affecting crucial areas such as language acquisition and breathing and heart rate regulation. Music and humanity have been linked since the dawn of time, with every culture having songs and rhymes for children passed down from generation to generation.  They are part of the fabric of who we are.

Play Therapy

mi1_675Perry describes how “play therapy” is used in treating traumatised children and in particular talks about Sandy (not her real name), a three year old girl who witnessed her mother being raped and stabbed to death, before having her own throat slit and being left for dead.  Sandy was alone with her mother’s body in their apartment for eleven hours before being discovered, taken to hospital and having the wounds on her neck treated. [p.33].   Perry discovered that Sandy had a need to role play the scene which had traumatised her again and again.  This involved  Perry himself lying on the ground, in the role of Sandy’s mother, while Sandy attempted to “wake” him and “feed” him, which she had done with her mother during the eleven hours after the brutal attack on them both.  [p.52].  “While she did this [role play] , I had to do exactly what she wanted: don’t talk, don’t move, don’t interfere, don’t stop.  She needed to have total control while she performed this reenactment.  And that control, I began to recognize, would be critical to helping her heal.”  Over the course of manyPlato-play+blue months, Sandy began to alter this re-enactment and, on her own, changed it to a scene where Perry would read her a story book, thus reverting to a positive memory of times with her mother before the attack.  This is not to say that Sandy wasn’t scarred by her extremely traumatic experience.  But “play therapy” in this way enabled her to process what had happened and move towards healing.  Perry says that, with ongoing therapy and encouragement, Sandy went on to lead a satisfying and productive life, despite her horrific early  experience.

The importance of “play” is something for all parents and carers to be aware of.  A particularly useful article on “Attachment Play” (especially beneficial to children being fostered or adopted, who may have attachment issues or disorders, but also beneficial to our children generally) was recently published by Marion Badenoch Rose, here on the “Forever Years”.  (To read it, please follow the link below):

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/an-introduction-to-attachment-play-by-marion-badenoch-rose/

Some other articles on the importance of play can be found at the links below:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-remarkable-power-of-play-why-play-is-so-important-for-children-by-karen-young/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/let-the-children-play-outside-by-greenlife-matters-the-nursery-and-garden-industry-new-zealand/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/help-my-toddler-cant-play-without-me-by-janet-lansbury/

Interaction with Peers

kidsplaying-on-playgroundPerry says the next step in neurosequential therapy is being able to aptly interact with peers.  This is a big step, as adults make allowances and try to protect or help a child who they see as having “issues”, but successful peer interaction (and acceptance of and by peers) is necessary to be able to function throughout the rest of life, with implications for all future relationships.  Perry discusses the case of Peter (not his real name) a seven year old boy who was adopted at age three from an orphanage in Russia.  Due to early lack of stimulation and neglect during his time at the orphanage (where intentions were good, but there were simply not enough adults to go around, meaning that Peter and the other three year olds there were fed and changed, but spent all day in cots), Peter, who was an intelligent boy, showed behaviour which was young for his age and, inspite of loving and patient behaviour from his adoptive parents at home, this caused him to be rejected and marginalised by his peers… which in turn led Peter to having angry, bewildered outburts (which only served to further ostracise him from his classmates).

Mandela“The behavior of his classmates was predictable.  What was happening was a small version of what happens all across the planet in various forms every day.  Human beings fear what they don’t understand.  The unknown scares us.  When we meet people who look or act in unfamiliar, strange ways, our initial response is to keep them at arms length.  At times we make ourselves feel superior, smarter or more competent by dehumanizing or degrading those who are different.  The roots of so many of our species’ ugliest behaviors– racism, ageism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, to name just a few– are the basic brain-mediated response to perceived threat.  We tend to fear what we do not understand, and fear can so easily twist into hate or even violence because it can suppress the rational parts of our brain.”  [p.225].

The biggest predator of humans is humans and we have, therefore, a built in fear of other people who seem “different”.  Perry says, “...Peter was intellectually advanced, but socially clueless.  I realised that if he was going to catch up, he was going to need the help of his peers.” [p.226].

choose-wiselyWhat followed was an amazing (and yet simple) exercise in understanding.  Our fear reaction so often kicks in, but the empathy reaction can take longer to activate (in children or adults), but, it has been shown, empathy once activated is stronger than the fear reaction.  To get Peter’s peers “on side” in his healing, Perry (with the permission of Peter, his parents and the school) came along to his class and spoke about the brain… at a level at which seven year old children could understand.

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of "The Boy who was raised as a Dog", "talking about the brain".

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of “The Boy who was raised as a Dog”, “talking about the brain”.  Source: http://davidsmithsegarra.com/born-love-dr-bruce-perry/

I talked about how they were exercising their “ABC” muscles [of the brain] in school and about the importance of repetition.  I described how they had many other similar kinds of “muscles” in the brain that also needed certain kinds of attention to grow big and strong.  I talked about how the brain develops and what makes everyone’s brain work, emphasizing how the brain changes.” [p.228].

Perry then went on to explain how Peter had had a different and more difficult start in life than the other children in his class.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

“When he was a little boy, he spent every minute of every day for the first three years of his life in one crib.  …  Peter was born in another country where they did not know very much about the brain.  … Peter never had a chance to walk around, to play with friends, to get a hug from any loving grown-ups.  His brain didn’t get very much stimulation.  … his new parents came… [then] Peter’s amazing brain started to learn so many things.  Even though he had never heard English, he learned English in just a couple of years. … every day in school, Peter learns things from all of you.  He watches how you do things, he learns from playing with each of you and he learns from just being your friend.  So thank you for helping Peter.  And thanks for letting me come and talk about the brain.”  [pp.228-229].

Perry says that, in the weeks that followed, the children’s “natural goodness” came to the surface and they “included him, protected him and, ultimately, provided therapeutic experiences that helped Peter catch up…. adults have much more influence over the process [of helping children understand those who are different] than they may believe.  When children understand why someone behaves oddly, they give him or her more slack…” [p.229].

tribal-fear-altruism

In Conclusion

The Boy Who was raised as a Dog” has many more examples of the amazing capacity of the human brain to recover from early neglect or trauma, including the story which gives the book its title.  Perry also worked with the children from the WACO Texas cult and talks about his experiences with them in this book.  While Perry’s patients are extreme examples of trauma or abuse, he says an estimated 40% of children will experience some level of trauma before they reach adulthood [p. 233] and that some of our current practices of therapy and childcare are actually causing more harm than healing [p.235].  He advocates for an “infant and child literate society” [p.239] and a nurturing of empathy– which is why we at “The Forever Years” love this book, which fits in so well with our own ethos, of viewing the world “through the eyes of a child”, an ethos which Perry certainly puts into action when treating children who have suffered from trauma or neglect.

Related Links:

Life After Stress: The Biology of Trauma and Resilience

http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2012/08/02/what-americans-dont-get-about-the-brains-critical-period/

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/529-baby-brain-map

http://nancyguberti.com/5-stages-of-human-brain-development/

Ab Collage 11

Why Texture Matters For Picky Eaters, by Kim Humphrey MS CCC-SLP, a pediatric speech, language and feeding therapist

Why-Texture-Matters

Texture is often the primary reason we choose or refuse foods. We may crave the way something feels in our mouth and, though we like the taste, it’s not our primary reason for wanting it. Or we hate the way something feels in our mouths and even if we loved the taste we still wouldn’t put it in our mouths because of it’s texture.  Kids are the same way.  We want them to taste foods to see if they like them, but during those tastes kids are also deciding if they like the way the food feels and that may be their primary reason for choosing or refusing it when they see it again.

As our feeding skills develop we develop food preferences based on how they taste, feel and break apart in our mouths. So, even if you’ve never thought of it, your child probably already has texture preferences!

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://learntolovefood.com/2016/04/07/why-texture-preference-matters/