Sunday, March 18, 2007

Just Ask What’s the Matter

I want to remind you that there is a major way you can implement trauma informed care without needing any committees, any program change, and without eliminating your points and levels system.

When a kid is upset, ask them what is the matter.

Don’t talk about consequences. Don’t talk about better ways they could be handling it. Don’t try to get them to take responsibility for their actions.

When you ask, be prepared that their response will be about something that someone has done wrong at your "stupid place" (that’s if they are putting it mildly). Don’t argue. Don’t tell them why the person was right to do what they did- even though you know they were.

Paraphrase what the kid said: so you are very angry about being sent up from school? It doesn’t seem fair to you? You can add an element of the possibility of change by introducing such phrases as: "Right now" as in: "right now you don’t like any thing about this place?" or "at the moment it seems impossible that you will ever have any friends?"

Emphasize any feelings they impart, especially any besides anger: you are discouraged, you are sad, you are frustrated, you were hurt.

Ask what else is upsetting them?

Stay for as long as you possibly can at the exploring and paraphrasing stage. No suggestions of how they could have handled it better, no mention of consequences that will happen, no taking responsibility for their action, just explore what are they upset about.

During all this keep your breathing slow, your voice calm, yourself regulated.

And this takes patience. You may have to keep doing this for a long time.

And then when (and only when) you notice some de-escalation on their part, some slowing of breath, and reduction of yelling, willingness to talk, then start considering: so where can we go from here? The kid is upset and wants this, the adults think this is necessary, how can we go forward? Where ever you can compromise, be creative, use unique solutions, do so.

At this point also slip in some discussion of other, non-problem related things: how the room floor is hard, how its cold in here, how you remember they had their basketball game yesterday, how did it go- chit chat. If the child is really much calmer, some humor can often help.

Once the child has regained some sort of regulation, you will often be surprised how easily the next steps can be figured out.

Try this today.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how often this works in our personal lives as well...

bleeeeeeeeeeeeeee said...