Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Part 3: "Parenting a Child Who has Intense Emotions"

This is part of a summary of the book: Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts & Aggressive Behaviors. My comments are generally in italics; the rest of the information comes from the book.

I thought I would list the rest of the chapters, so I you know how much longer until this is over what's coming:
  • We finished Part 1:  You, Your Child, and Emotional Intensity
    • Chapter 1:  Emotional Intensity and Your Child's Feelings
    • Chapter 2:  Effective Parenting
  • Part 2:  Responding to Your Child's Feelings
    • Chapter 3:  Understanding What Your Child Is Telling You (because there is another interpretation of the angry things the child is screaming LOUD AND CLEAR?)
    • Chapter 4:  Responding When Your Child Is Overwhelmed by Emotions
    • Chapter 5:  Teaching Your Child to Manage Feelings
  • Part 3:  Responding to Your Child's Behaviors
    • Chapter 6:  Behavioral Principles and Intense Behaviors
    • Chapter 7:  Maintaining Expectations, Limits, and Routines
    • Chapter 8:  Decreasing Tantrums, Aggression, and Other Problem Behaviors
    • Chapter 9:  School-Related Difficulties
  • Part 4:  Helping Your Whole Family:  Minimizing Collateral Damage  (That just MAKES ME SICK!  "Minimizing Collateral Damage"?!  From something a child, WHO CAME FROM YOUR BODY is doing?!  I could throw up right now.)
    • Chapter 10:  The Impact of Intense Emotions on the Entire Family (because you don't feel like enough of a failure already)
    • Chapter 11:  Caring for Yourself and Living Your Life
Hmmm, I was planning on reading the chapter about taking care of yourself, but looking at part 4 is making me feel ill, so I think I'll pick a different chapter for tonight.....I guess I'll start on Part 2:  Responding to Your Child's Feelings.
Chapter 3:  Understanding What Your Child Is Telling You
  • The "story of emotion" describes how an emotion develops until it is expressed verbally and behaviorally.  "Understanding the steps in your child's story of emotion will help you understand your child's feelings with acceptance and without judgement.  Knowing the steps in her story will enable you to intervene before your child has escalated to the point of uncontrollable behaviors."  (The steps are:  Vulnerabilities/Risk Factors, Triggers, Thoughts/Beliefs About the Event, Body Sensations or Responses, Identifying Emotions, Behaviors/Actions)
  • "Your Child's Vulnerabilities or Risk Factors"
    • "Knowing when your child is vulnerable to negative emotions enables you to help her prepare for or avoid difficult or stressful situations until she is better able to manage them."
    • How to figure out when your child is vulnerable
      • "Hypothesize why your child's emotions seem more intense at this time" (since it is so quiet and peaceful while you duck and cover, trying to avoid the objects thrown your way fallout during the latest meltdown)
      • "Figure out what makes this day different from another"
      • "Begin to discern patterns"
    • "Possible Risk Factors For Children"
      • "Lack of sleep"
      • "Not feeling well"
      • "A change in routine"
      • "Tension in the house (even tension about positive events)"
      • "New people or situations"
      • "Stress from playmates, friends, or siblings;  being picked on or teased"
      • "A perceived sense of having done something wrong or having upset a loved one"
      • "Difficulty in school or in completing homework"
  • "Your Child's Triggers:  The trigger for your child is anything that causes or leads to an intense emotions response."
    • Possible triggers:
      • something in the environment
      • something the child is thinking or feeling
      • bedtime
      • vacation
      • asking your child to do something
      • setting limits
      • separation from a parent
      • change in routine or circumstance
      • losing in competitive activities
    • "Your Feelings as Triggers":  becoming tense in anticipation of your child's reaction to something can trigger the child's reactivity since children are supposedly sensitive to your moods and feelings
    • "Siblings as Triggers"
    • "Your child's sibling may be a trigger for emotional outbursts for any number or reasons....This presents a dilemma for parents, and each parent must find his or her own most effective way to resolve it.  Even while you try to avoid triggers for one child and try to keep her calm, your other child(ren)'s needs and feelings, even if they are triggers, need to be acknowledged and validated as well.  We will discuss siblings further in chapter 10."  (So, basically, WE ARE SCREWED this is looking GRIM.)
    • "Minimizing Your Child's Reactions to a World Full of Triggers":  Your child cannot live in a safe bubble, free from triggers, but you can spend your life walking on eggshells try to minimize the impact of the triggers by
      • avoiding or lessening problematic situations that are not necessary (example:  if your child becomes more aggressive after watching cartoons, limit cartoon time and increase time for programs that are more calming)
      • Making certain accommodations for things you know are going to be a problem (example:  if your child takes a long time getting ready in the morning, wake her earlier so that she'll have the time she needs)
      • preparing the child in advance by discussing what is going to happen, asking her what will make it easier for her, try to find ways to minimize stress and anxiety, validating her feelings and remaining calm and nonjudgmental when in the situation
  • "Your Child's Belief System and Concrete Thinking":  Children think in a literal, concrete way 
  • "Body Sensations":  be aware of the physical signs that your child is becoming distressed  (examples:  looking as though she's going to cry, speaking louder or faster, not looking directly at you, becoming more active or jumpy, looking like he is about to explode from the effort of holding his rage inside)
  • "Communicating Feelings":  When you are familiar with your child's risk factors, triggers, and body sensations, you can more easily understand what he is feeling.  Helping your child name the feeling is a way to help him gain some control and reduce negative emotions.
    • You can find a mood chart to hang up so that your child can see a picture of a mood and identify with it.
  • "Behaviors and Actions:  The Outcome of the Story":  The outcome of every story of emotion is a behavior.
      • "In DBT, behaviors are seen as ways to manage difficult emotions...Your child learns ways to help her feel better.  The stronger her negative feelings, the more she will search for ways to get rid of those feelings and the more intense her behavioral response will be.  Yelling, for example, may release some emotion, but if her emotions are very strong, hurting herself (or someone else) may be the only way she can find to feel better.  Ironically, her attempts at feeling better may become more destructive as the intensity of her emotions increases."
    • "Teaching Alternative Behaviors":  parents need to teach the children different behaviors to replace those that are "less effective" (Ha, ha, ha, ha!  Let's not tiptoe around this!  The things you do that get you grounded/suspended/listed on Cr@igslist!)
      • Examples:  telling someone what has happened, having some time alone, hugging a stuffed animal, pounding on clay or a soft cushion (Those are lovely ideas, but what are you supposed to do when your child REFUSES to do ANY OF THOSE THINGS or ANYTHING ELSE YOU HAVE SUGGESTED?!)
      • Encourage the use of alternate behaviors early in the incident "story"
    • "Modeling Effective Behaviors" (because your child is not going to head for some time alone when he is angry if you like to slam things and yell when you are angry)
      • Help your child understand that everyone makes mistakes
  • "Finding Your Child's Truth":  try to figure out what your child is trying to tell you
    • "Know Your Child":  accept your child the way he is
    • "Accept Your Child's Truth:  Your child's truth is real to her...Sometimes the specific words your child is saying are ineffective ways she has found to express herself...If you can let go of the truth of the words ('You love him more than me!'), you will be much better able to recognize and respond to your child's feelings effectively."
    • "Acknowledge When Something Is Important to Your Child":  try to validate your child's feelings even if you don't understand why something is so important to him
  • "Helping Your Child Express What She Is Feeling":  the best way to do this is to talk to her about her feelings and behaviors when she is calm
    • "Create a Validating Home Environment"
    • "Talk About Your Own Feelings"
    • "Acknowledge Positive and Negative Emotions in Others"
    • "Share Positive Activities"
Next up at some future date if I do not drown myself in ice cream!  Chapter 4:  Responding When Your Child Is Overwhelmed by Emotions

Summary Part 1
Summary Part 2
Summary Part 4
Summary Part 5

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Part 2: "Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions"

*If you have ever struggled with the feeling of not liking your child, and you don't want to read this entire summary post (no one would blame you...), scroll down towards the bottom and read the part in bold.

This is part of a summary of the book: Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts & Aggressive Behaviors. My comments are generally in italics; the rest of the information comes from the book.
Chapter 1:  Emotional Intensity and Your Child's Feelings
  • Primary and Secondary Emotions
"Primary emotions are biologically based and virtually automatic, while secondary emotions are created when we react to our own primary emotion..."
  • Emotion Dysregulation:  “These children react immediately and intensely to emotional situations and have a hard time calming down and returning to how they were before the situation occurred.  A child with emotion dysregulation is then unable to modulate her behavioral responses to the intense emotions that she experiences as overwhelming.”
  • Parents must be careful not to invalidate the child's feelings when trying to soothe her.  Statements such as "It isn't a big deal," or "Don't worry" could be "unintentionally minimizing an issue that is of great concern to her."  
  • "Thoughts Lead to Feelings, Which Lead to Behaviors"
  • "Your Child Is Not Her Behavior"  This is such a hard thing to believe when your child is behaving ALL OVER YOU, ALL DAY LONG!
  • If parents develop an awareness of the way their emotions affect their own behavior, parents can change the way they respond to difficult situations with their child.
  • "Throughout this book, we will continue to emphasize that (1) there is no blame and no fault in the fact that your child has intense emotions and behavioral difficulties, and (2) there is hope for change in the future."
Chapter 2:  Effective Parenting
The author continues to refer to DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) but still hasn't explained exactly what that is.
  • "In DBT you are asked to accept two facts that may seem contradictory:  that you are doing the best you can and that you can do better....This is a no-fault, no-blame framework for change."
  • "These are assumptions we're asking you to accept as an important part of the DBT learning process.  They are:
    • Your child is doing the best he can
    • Your child needs to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change
    • Your child wants to do things differently and make things better
    • Your child must learn new behaviors in all important situations in his life--sometimes a child will behave fine in one place (at school) but awful in another (at home)
    • Family members should take things in a well-meaning way and not assume the worst
    • There is no absolute truth--The truth of any situation is based on the perspective of each person and is therefore relative and changeable.  When you accept that someone's point of view, memory, or understanding may be different from your own, you will no longer feel the need to prove that you are right or the other person is wrong."
  • Although the above assumptions may be hard to believe, it is vital to behave as though they are true in order to think and respond differently towards your child (which will then affect the way your child is behaving).
  • "Using the DBT assumptions is one way you can begin to respond to your child more wisely.  To further help you learn to respond wisely, DBT teaches several skills that involve learning to step back from a situation and to see things with new eyes and a different point of view....These skills also involve learning to focus, to think in a nonjudgmental way, and to do what works (what is effective)."
  • We need to describe ("He interrupts his siblings when they're doing their homework.") instead of evaluate/judge ("He's very disruptive.")
  • We need to respond ("well-planned and reasonable...") instead of react ("based on your emotions")
  • It is important for our child to feel validated ("validation refers to the act of letting someone know that you understand, acknowledge, empathize with, and accept his thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the context of his own life experiences...")
  • "A person must feel accepted before he can change..."
4 steps to practice (and practice and practice and practice) to learn how to make validating statements:
  1. "Find a way to act wisely"--Hee, hee, hee.  The description of this step reminded me of the Blue's Clues episode about frustration:  Steve taught us the kids to "Stop, Breathe, and Think" when we they were feeling frustrated.
  2. "Look at your child with new eyes"--"Remember, your child is doing the best he can...", try to figure out what your child is feeling or why he is acting the way he is
  3. "Explore what may be getting in the way"--Why are you having a hard time validating your child in this situation?
  4. "Make a validating statement"--say something that shows you understand and accept your child
Okay, none of this is ground-breaking information, right?  Aren't these the things we know we should be doing but don't always do because we're tired/busy/need more ice creamWORN DOWN?

Next section:  "Parenting Roles, Goals, and Expectations"
  • "Interacting and Communicating in Ways that Work"
    • "Assess your goals"
    • "Develop priorities"
    • "Feel effective"
"Balanced Parenting"
Aha!  Now we learn what Dialectical thinking is!
"Dialectical thinking enables a person to (1) view behaviors within a whole context, (2) entertain different perspectives in others and within himself, (3) recognize that two things that seem like opposites can both be true, and (4) find less extreme and more effective ways to think...When parents are able to accept, incorporate, and synthesize other, conflicting points of view, they become less rigid, become more balanced, and are able to develop entirely new ways of thinking..."
So, "dialectical thinking" is basically looking at the whole situation and having an open mind?

In order to think in a "balanced way" we need to be:
  • "Using phrases like 'sometimes' and 'some people' and avoiding extreme words such as 'always', 'never,''everyone,'and 'all the time'"
  • "Thinking in terms of both/and instead of either/or, such as 'I am angry, and I still love you,' and 'This is hard for me and I'm going to do the best I can"
  • "Reminding yourself that other opinions can be legitimate even if you don't agree with them"
  • "Describing situations by making 'I feel _______' rather than 'You are_______' statements"
  • "Asking questions to clarify what others want and telling people what you want them to know"
"Examples of Balanced Thinking...that are especially relevant for parents of children with intense emotions:"
  • "Acceptance and Hope"--accepting your child the way they are now and hoping they will change in the future
  • "Independence and Assistance"--helping your child to learn independence while knowing that you will help if needed
  • "Choices and Limits"--you can give your child choices AND limits
    • It ACTUALLY SAYS, in this section:  "Learning to negotiate is a valuable skill for you and your child." but I'm CERTAIN that sentence involves some MAJOR typos and SHOULD read:  "Negotiating is a skill that your child will acquire effortlessly (unlike the skills of bathing, flushing the toilet, or picking up his own belongings) and use to drive you OUT OF YOUR MIND *EVERY* time you ask him to do ANYTHING or give him ANY choices."
  • "Giving In and Choosing Priorities"--you can let your child win some battles without worrying that by doing this you are losing the war you never wanted to fight in the first place and do not remember signing up for
"Loving a Child with Intense Emotions" (bold added by me)
"You may wrestle with your own feelings toward your child.  You know you love him and there may be some days, especially when your child appears to be out of control or when his anger is directed at you, when you don't like your child very much.  There may be days when you question your love for your child, and this can lead to feelings of guilt and shame.  Again, think in terms of balance.  You can, indeed, have mixed feelings for your child.  You can also have different emotions on different days.  Not liking your child at times does not negate your love for your child;  you can hold two different truths at the same time.  You can love your child and be angry at your child.  You can love your child and want your child to disappear at times.  You can want to be with your child and not like being with him.  Accepting that you can have different emotions at different times---or even at the same time---will make it easier for you to parent and to love your child."

Well.  The introduction said that we could skip to the how-to-take-care-of-yourself chapters if we were overwhelmed by this point.  Any votes?  I would vote but I need to go find some ice cream to drown my reality sorrows....

And:  do you want me to keep summarizing, or do you feel like you have a pretty good idea of whether or not you are interested in reading this book for yourself and we should move on to something less realistic less discouraging more pleasant?  I've tried to hit the main points, but there is, of course, more information in the book.

Lastly, I need a hug.  It is discouraging to think how many hours I have spent reading books like this AND YET I still must get to read this one.

Summary Part 1
Summary Part 3
Summary Part 4
Summary Part 5

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions" Part 1

This is part of a summary of the book: Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Help Your Child Regulate Emotional Outbursts & Aggressive Behaviors. My comments are generally in italics; the rest of the information comes from the book.

So, this is the latest book that was recommended to me by the psychologist we see (I like and trust this person.  I cannot say that about every "professional" we have seen).  A few people have mentioned that they are interested in hearing what I think of this book, so I'm using that as my motivation to get this book read.  (What?  You don't have to motivate yourself to read parenting books?  YOU ARE LUCKY!)  I'm going to do a little summary/book report as I read.

Conveniently, the Introduction has a little quiz of sorts to help you know if you need to keep reading:
"As you pick up this book, are you wondering whether your child has intense emotions?  Is it your child screaming in the grocery store because he can't have something you told him in advance he couldn't have?  Is your child the one who keeps crying when everyone else seems to be having a good time?  Does your child look at you with anger in his eyes when you tell him he can't do something he wants to do?  Does he have a tantrum when you have simply asked him to get ready for bed?  Is homework a nightmare?  Do you dread telling your child no?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you."
Drat.  This book is for me.
"Parents of children whose behaviors often spiral out of control tell me they have a difficult time getting effective guidance and help....With anger, sadness, and sometimes guilt, these parents also report being blamed for their children's behaviors by family members (*cough* recently heard of an AWFUL example of somebody's ignorant SISTER doing this *cough*), school personnel, and some mental health professionals.  My hope is that this book will validate the feelings you have been unable to share with others and will help you see that you're not alone."
"Though this book has been designed as part of a series for parents of children who are ages five through twelve, I've found over the years that the skills and guidance in this book help parents regardless of the age of their child."
 "Since I began teaching DBT skills, the parents I work with have reported that the skills help them understand, accept, and calm children whose behaviors once seemed unmanageable.  Whether your child has periodic outbursts, behaves aggressively, withdraws, or has a diagnosed emotional disorder, these skills will be helpful to you."

Huh.  This book really IS for me:
"We encourage you to accept yourself and your actions by telling yourself, 'I did the best I could.  I am doing the best I can.'"
How to use this book:
"This book has four parts:  The first part (chapters 1 and 2) provides the foundation and background for all the skills that follow;  the second part (chapters 3, 4, and 5) focuses on emotions, providing understanding about how they develop and specific, step-by-step skills that you and your child can use to calm disruptive and disquieting emotions;  the third part (chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9) uses similar skills to help you reduce the occurrence of behavioral outbursts and to manage already escalated behaviors;  and the fourth part (chapters 10 and 11) addresses your emotional needs and those of other family members.  After you read the first part, you can read the remaining chapters in order or move through the sections that seem most relevant.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the information, you can advance to chapter 11 and learn how to take care of yourself."
Hurray! Darn!  Quiet time is over, so I'll have to stop reading now.  I suppose it DOES look interesting, so I will get back to reviewing/summarizing it as soon as I can.  This post should have helped you figure out if this book is something you are interested in.  If this book is NOT something you need, get on your knees RIGHT NOW and THANK GOD then you can skip the next few posts.  For those who ARE interested, I should be able to read and post more during the next couple days.

Summary Part 2
Summary Part 3
Summary Part 4
Summary Part 5