Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (published JUNO Winter 2020)

Click here to open pdf   When my first child was born I was so ready for him and longing to meet him. My body however wanted to freak out and be taken care of so it generated a uterine infection that left me sweaty and comatose for the first 5 weeks of my son’s life. This was the exact duration I had spent in an incubator, separated from my mother when I was born. Fast forward a year or two, being with a toddler felt mostly intolerable. The months blurred by, but the days were each one an epic, painstaking marathon, that required seemingly impossible levels of determination. The only thing preventing me from enjoying this sweet little, curious, funny person was an internal chasm of latent, unresolved feelings which made a normal day feel like I was drowning. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is usually something we associate with war veterans or people who have witnessed shocking events. But Complex PTSD is something slightly different. It can occur through a longstanding sense of not being seen and upheld by those around us when we were growing up, or an accumulation of relatively minor but frightening, neglectful or confusing experiences. Things that we tend to normalise like a parent becoming scary when angry, or never being allowed to express our emotions, or not receiving the attention and delight that we really needed, can all become internalised as complex trauma. Flashbacks are less visual and more visceral than typical PTSD flashbacks and we often don’t realise we are having one. The limbic system (emotional brain) gets activated and feelings...
Are you missing signals for connection from your pre-teen?

Are you missing signals for connection from your pre-teen?

Do you ever get kinda hunkered down when it gets to bedtime, on a slighted fixated mission to just get the kids in bed? I do.   My kids were doing the usual multiple procrastination stunts and I was fielding them, on autopilot; herding the kids into bed. No you can’t have a snack you just ate a huge supper. No I’m not going to read another story. Finally they settle and I sink into a hot bath.    My 11 year old’s face appears round the door. ‘Can I get in the bath with you?’ he asks and immediately I’m telling him to go to bed, that I’ve still got another hour of work and I can’t go to sleep myself until I’ve finished it. And suddenly I interrupt myself, noticing that he obediently walks away, shoulders hunched. I’m so caught up in my own frenzied to do list and tiredness that I miss him reaching out to me for CONNECTION. He wants some time just with me while his sister is in bed. And of course I feel like the worst mother and shout after him to join me.   It’s easy to miss as our kids get older. They seem so much more independent and they reach for us less often. And when they do it can be easily missed if we are preoccupied.   Here are some of the ways I’ve noticed they reach out:   Asking you to do something for them they can do by themselves Asking to climb into your bed/bath/come with you on an errand/hang out with you and your friends...
Tribal hearts – this is for you!

Tribal hearts – this is for you!

I was really sorry to miss you folks so I pre-recorded the talks I was due to give at Tribal Hearts last weekend. So if you missed them you can watch both here.   Healing Separation Anxiety Are you struggling whenever you have to be away from your child? Does your child… get upset when you have to leave, or even at the thought of being away from you behave in challenging ways either before or after separation Would you like to… leave your child feeling safe and confident to be without you respond to your child in a way that honours their emotional needs help your child face the fear they carry about the times they’ve been separated from you In this talk I share powerful tools to reduce the stress of leaving your child and off-track behavior as you help your child feel more secure. Further info: To get started with Listening Partnerships, you might like to download my Listening Guide. You can find a Listening Partner here. You might enjoy this blog on preparing to start school. And on the subject of Listening Partnerships, here’s how you might address separation by working on yourself     Why do Kids Push Our Buttons? Ever found yourself saying the EXACT thing you SWORE you’d never say to your kids? You know you don’t want to incite shame, fear or rejection, yet sometimes they just make you crazy and losing it is beyond your control. You’re committed to being patient, available and playful, yet often you just feel so tired and overloaded that somehow they’re on a screen again...
Increasing closeness by lifting out separation anxiety (mine!)

Increasing closeness by lifting out separation anxiety (mine!)

So often, I’m amazed by the power of this therapeutic parenting work, to shift not just tricky behaviours, but entire patterns that I had written off as just being part of my or my child’s personality.   I’m very close to my kids, but they’ve always been kinda avoidant with me. Wanting physical contact but wriggling away from it after a few seconds and pretty much always choosing daddy over me – since they were babies. I just assumed it was how they were.   Last spring I undertook some very deep emotional work on early separation in my listening time over several weeks. It was a huge emotional project that has involved lots of protesting and crying for my mummy and it culminated in working quite intensively on this theme for a few days with my Listening Partner. The work we did felt profound and left me feeling freer, more myself and bigger in the world. My posture changed quite noticeably and I became much more assertive.   And seems like my kids could just feel it before they’d even seen me. When I picked them up from school after this emotional intensive, they both flung themselves into my arms for the first time ever! Except of course, I realised the distance had always been… in me.   They were squabbling over who got to sleep in my bed or cuddle me, my daughter wanting me to constantly play with her. It’s like the channel for my love getting to them was blocked, I was going through the motions but it wasn’t getting through.   Our children’s issues...
Is the house on fire? A tool for parenting emergencies

Is the house on fire? A tool for parenting emergencies

In those moments when we’re just about to lose it with our kids and we don’t really want to blow up at them, it’s good to learn how to de-escalate. It often feels way more urgent than it actually is. Start by asking yourself “is the house on fire?” And if it’s not, here’s what you need to do instead of freaking out. Stash your kids somewhere safe for 5 mins (if developmentally appropriate). If they are squabbling, separate them. If they need entertaining stick on an audiobook or get out a special toy you hide except for in these moments, or occupy them with a much coveted foodstuff. Go where you feel safe and ideally not overheard. Lots of folks use the bathroom or car if nowhere else can work. Call one of your Listening Partners. If you do not have one of these we suggest rectifying this immediately, but in a pinch point 4 can be done alone (or at least with pillows and a baseball bat). Scream/rant/cry/make some noise/thrash about. Catastrophise about how much the house is DEFINITELY burning down. Blame everyone whose fault it is. Swear like a rabid, Tourettes ridden creature. Tell them exactly how much you want to throttle your two year old and abandon your 12 year old at boarding school. Be NOT fine. Just for 5 minutes. Go back to your life with a miraculous capacity to keep holding the shit together. We call this taking EMERGENCY listening. Unlike your regular Listening Partnerships, (where you schedule a preemptive time to exchange listening regularly, with the intention of pouring out the build-up of feelings to...