Inside I’m Hurting: permanency

Adoption

Permanency is the topic of this post on the book “Inside I’m Hurting” by Louise Michelle Bomber. The book is written for educators and is a manual on working with attached challenged children in schools.

In chapter 8, “Permanency and Constancy,” Bomber explains why many attachment challenged children struggle with the concept of permanency. Bomber describes permanency in this way, “A child who has negotiated the psychological developmental stage of permanency will be aware that objects and the parent exist and will continue to exist, and that he or she (the child), exists as an individual and will continue to exist despite not being seen or directly connected to the parent.”

However, as Bomber explains, attachment challenged children may not have mastered this stage. “A child that has experienced neglect, chaotic and inconsistent parenting or traumatic experiences, however, may become very stuck, not understanding this important developmental concept,” she writes.

Bomber writes that kids in this situation may often do everything they can to stay connected to the significant adults in their lives.

After reading this, I understood somewhat why my kids can be so needy. But, I’m not the most patient person in the world, and the constant demands for attention can get on my nerves fast. So what do I do?

Bomber suggests that it’s important to help these children experience being connected to others. She recommends the following tactics to do this:

1. Sensory reminders: for example, using a visual image that will help children remember that they have not been forgotten when away from the parent.
2. Personal touch: using cautious touch to make a connection.
3. Reassurance: verbally reassuring children of your connection to them.
4. Eye contact: giving children sustained eye contact.
5. Physical presence: connecting through physical presence.
6. Hide and seek: not necessarily the traditional game, but a variation, involving hiding objects and finding them.

Bomber offers encouragement to parents and educators about this issue: “… the time will indeed come when the child will be able to internalize the concept of permanency to such an extent that they can throw away the ‘props’ – the symbolic representations of the fact that you actually do keep them alive in your mind.”

Inside I’m Hurting: explicit communication

Adoption

I guess this should technically be part two, because I wrote a sort of “preview” to the book before I finished it. That was way back in March and I didn’t expect it would take me so long to get through it.

The book, by Louise Michelle Bomber, was written as an aid for educators who are working with attachment challenged children. Even though I’m not an educator, I was still able to benefit from the book, and I’ve been using many of its tips at home. It also gives some strategies for creating a home/school partnership. However, the book is written like a manual and is quite long. It obviously took me many months to finish it (although I read only a few pages at a time, and not every day).

Since the book is long, and there are so many valuable ideas, I decided to do my review in several parts. In my preview, I wrote about “good enough” parenting. For this part, I’d like to focus on “differentiating our communication.”

In chapter 3, “The Role of Education and the Core Concept of Differentiation,” Bomber explains the importance of communicating explicitly. While many children may understand requests such as “be nice” or “calm down,” attachment challenged children may not. Bomber writes, “(These phrases) presume a child has had previous healthy experiences and so will know how to behave to follow your instruction. We cannot make these assumptions.”

Bomber’s solution is to use very specific instructions. Instead of the examples above, she recommends something like the following, “Touch others gently. They feel uncomfortable when you push them.” Another example is, “Talk quietly to the others. It gives children a shock when you shout in their ears.”

My kids have a very hard time controlling themselves, especially when it comes to appropriate indoor behavior. In these situations I’ve adapted Bomber’s examples to sound something like, “Please be calm. That means using a quiet voice and walking feet.”

This has also come in handy with BE in particular who has the bad habit of literally getting right in people’s faces. In response, I’ve been saying, “Please do not get in my face. People do not like others in their face. It makes them very uncomfortable.”

Bomber concludes this section by explaining, “Differentiating the language that we use will enable children who have experienced trauma and loss to make sense of what is going on around them, thus giving them the opportunity to respond appropriately in different contexts. This clarification will help build up their resilience.”