Instead of questioning (“How could you?”) or punishing (“How dare you!”) look for the entry point for empathy (“Oh, of course you…”).
When someone – especially kids but inclusive of us adults – has a HUGE reaction to a minor thing, the reaction probably is not actually about the thing. More often, it’s fear or trauma rising to the surface, or simply due to a lack of resources to cope in that moment. You can react to the behavior or you can validate it. Validating doesn’t mean affirming reactions that were harmful, hurtful, or dangerous; it means naming the powerful emotions the person is feeling, affirming the *feeling,* offering soothing/containment, and *then* dealing with the consequences of their reaction. Doing so builds trust, parent-child bonding, and – over time – the capacity within our brains for less reactivity and more self-soothing.
These notes were taken during a lecture by Steve Call PhD, author of the book “Reconnect.”
On Childhood Adversity
Giving the most vulnerable a leg up, like we could through reallocating funds currently used to militarize police, is win-win-win: supporting all kids in accessing resources needed to equitably thrive, reducing the mental health effects of poverty, and saving billions of taxpayer dollars in the long run (see yesterday’s post on the 13.7% rate of return on investment when taxpayers fund early education).
This cutaway from a sketchnote I shared last year features research on how childhood poverty and trauma shape brains. What it doesn’t cover is the amazing neuroplasticity of adult brains, which makes deep change and growth possible throughout our lifespan. For adults experiencing the after-effects of childhood trauma or poverty, it’s never too late for recovery and posttraumatic growth.
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