May 31, 2012 2 Comments
This weekend is the big prom dinner, photo op, chance to dress up and after party for the kids. What a difference a year makes. A year ago I had expected that buddy-child and step-daughter would graduate but I wasn’t really sure if they would make it. They were both still smoking dope every day, skipping pretty much daily and were unmotivated basement dwellers. I wouldn’t accept anything else but really, they weren’t doing their job of living up to the expectation.
Fast forward a year and buddy is graduating and has been asked to sit on a panel between kids and teachers to talk about what the school can do to help kids “make it” to graduation. She’s also been nominated for some kind of award that the teachers vote on. We have to wait until the day they get their diplomas to find out what the award actually is.
The difference? Stability and a sense of safety. (otherwise known as step 3).
This is highly underrated. Kids (young kids and teenagers) need a sense of stability (things that won’t change – like their parents’ behaviour and reactions) and a sense of safety in their daily lives or they can’t succeed or grow or thrive. It effects their cognitive development (both positively and negatively) and allows them to move towards adulthood or become stuck and take a detoured route until their physiological age says they’re adults.
Kids need routines. They need the people in their world to stay the same. They need the adults to respond the same, act the same, think the same – especially during stressful or difficult times. Parents can sometimes parent out of guilt and give in because they feel badly for their kids if times are tough but it is the absolute worst thing you can do. A once in awhile “treat” is one thing but otherwise, you’re not doing your child anything good at all. In fact, the only person’s needs that are being met is your own.
If you change and are not the same, your child’s life suddenly feels unsafe and chaotic and unpredictable and that raises anxiety and stress. Chronic anxiety and stress in a child due to a chaotic, stressful, unpredictable and / or unsafe environment can cause brain damage and put your child at a huge disadvantage for things like learning (they’re too preoccupied with reading the environment in order to try to protect themselves) and relationships (they misread nonverbal communication and don’t know how to effectively respond to the actions or emotional displays of others because they see everything as dangerous).
Those are pretty big deals.
There is no magic here that helped buddy-child get to the point where she feels good about herself and feels successful. She came from an environment that was not safe and not predictable. She was suicidal and depressed. She still sees a counselor because it’s good for her to do that and she is well connected to this counselor but she wasn’t able to just stop and be herself and try to succeed until she had lived in an environment that stayed stable and safe for a long enough time for her to risk it.
That’s also why step-daughter left. She felt herself changing and she feared that change so much. She put herself back in an unsafe environment where people are highly stressed and highly unpredictable with the conscious thought that this would force her back into her ‘dark place’. The place where she felt comfortable and not ready to ‘leave’ yet.
Good or bad, they both achieved what they were looking for.