Children ARE the problem…..REALLY??!! 

Children ARE the problem…..REALLY??!!  150 150 Jane Evans

Time for a different view?

In all the years I have worked with the adults who are present in the lives of children, who are either raising them, caring for/about them, and/or educating them, I have often been directed, and still am, to see children as ‘the problem’ or ‘having problems’.

The opening comments or questions often go like this,

” (insert child’s name) is having problems with”

“Would you see……and do some work with them?”

In the past I would have very happily have started sessions with a child but also tried hard to reach those who were influential in their daily lives too, with varying degrees of engagement and, therefore, success!

Nowadays, 99.9% of the time, I only see the adults who are there for a child, so the parents, birth and adoptive, foster or kinship carers and occasionally the professionals such as teachers, early years professionals or social workers.

No more children for me?!!

Have I had enough of working with children? Nooooooooo! However, over 2 decades of direct work and endless studying of early brain development and attachment research has made it crystal clear to me, it’s the earliest, and then then ongoing, significant relationships in a child’s life that shape them and offer them the greatest hope for the future.

By working with the adults I can find out the ‘why’ behind a child’s complex and challenging behaviours which are making life hard for them and those caring for, and about them. To me that’s ESSENTIAL. Only then is it possible to begin to see a way forward, IF the adults can put in the work:

  • Changing how they think about raising children
  • Changing their inherited and learnt beliefs about children’s behaviours and needs
  • Looking at themselves now and from their earliest childhood
  • Accessing emotional and practical support
  • Addressing their levels of anxiety and stress on a daily basis

Will it be easy…..nope! Worth it…..yep!

Moving towards a way of ‘being’ with children that is unconditional and reliant upon emotional connection is

pretty big stuff! It’s not for the faint-hearted and I see varying results as many adults, understandably, find it challenging to see their interactions and actions towards a child as a main reason behind a child’s behaviour.

This is much, much harder when the adult has not been present in the child’s earliest days, months or years.

Imagine taking a child in to your home with the full intention of nurturing, caring for and loving them. Imagine them rejecting this over and over and over again in a variety of trying, hurtful and often traumatising ways which feel like a rejection of YOU. Most of us can’t possibly imagine it but many have to live with it. However, I still encourage those I work with to try and access a greater level of understanding about themselves first and foremost as that’s their best chance of weathering some great difficulties and emotional pain, whilst seeing they are absolutely doing their best and that there is hope.

It’s about me then??!!

My work with adults is complex, they have often been alive for 30, 40 or 50 years so a great deal has happened to them by the time they get to me, whether it’s as a parent, carer or professional. It can be at training, a conference, during 1:1 sessions or hearing me on TV or radio or watching my TED Talk on childhood anxiety.

I DON’T offer therapy or counselling, as I am not trained in either, but attachment theory has shown me I do need to be curious about have an insight into their early life, and so do they. When it’s possible to do this, it will shed light on current relationships with the children in their lives. My way is to empathetically and simplistically share the ‘mechanics’ of early brain and body development, and of attachment.

A defining moment in my work is when I ask about the adult’s parents and their childhood memories. If they immediately tell me, in a robust manner, that they had a “great childhood” and start giving me details as ‘proof’ then I generally find that the opposite was the case to a lesser or greater extent. Then begins the gentle, sensitive exploration of what it felt like to be them as a child and who was emotionally available to them as therein rests the clues.

Parents are……?

To be honest with you, finding this article by J R Thorpe, “7 Signs You Grew Up With A Toxic Parent & Didn’t Know It” has been a bit of a ‘breakthrough’ for me as it’s what I often have to gently skirt around as it can be painful and surprising to many people. After all most of us love our parents and naturally defend them, if I had a golden coin for every, “I was smacked/spanked when I was a child and it didn’t do me any harm” I’d be writing this on my private, luxury island!!

It’s not at all about blame, all and any of us can only know, believe and do what we know and believe! In the vast majority of cases those who raised us most definitely did it with love and within the knowledge base and emotional abilities they had. Most of the adults in our young lives would have experienced wars, the holocaust, ancestral slavery and other horrors, trauma is intergenerational and parenting was still very much ‘spare the rod spoil the child’.

It’s most DEFINITELY time!!

Attitudes, behaviours and beliefs now MUST change as it’s now possible to see inside of brains and to be much, much clearer about what shapes a child’s developing brain and body. By virtue of this we know, what Ainsworth, Bowlby and others tried to show and tell us in the 1940’s and 1950’s, that the earliest relational and emotional experiences and environment are vitally significant, as are the ongoing ones. Taking a look at how we were shaped by our childhood experiences may mean re-evaluating what we experienced as children, and for some that may mean accessing therapy, or integrating daily body-based practices to feel less anxious. Ultimately, these can be good outcomes as they offer both adult and child far more hope of an improved relationship, mental and physical health and access to their fullest potential.

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Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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