When is it our fault?

When is it our fault?

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I’ve been thinking recently about what our responsibility is as parents and/or someone working with vulnerable children, in terms of when our children dysregulate. It’s so easy to focus on what they have done, or not done, or even what others may have done to upset them and bring on the meltdown. But what about us? When do I have to take responsibility and say “actually I could have prevented that”?

A few weeks ago I went away on business for an evening. My husband was also away so the children were left in the care of a good friend. During the time I was away one of my children had a mega meltdown in the middle of the night. I could say there were lots of things that led to that for him. A day off school on inset (change of routine), a chance encounter with another boy who he’d been in a fight with a few weeks prior, a late to bed night and other people in the house, a misunderstanding which led to being told off, or of course the fact that me and my husband were not around. A myriad of things contributed – which is often the case.

However, I also heard someone speak recently about the fact that for our children we need to be thinking much more ahead and preparing them for things like this. It’s actually a lot more my responsibility then I’d care to admit. The fact that I put him in that situation (of course unknowingly at the time) meant that he could not regulate himself and got very frightened. It could have been prevented in other words, if I’d have really considered the ramifications of the whole few days.

There are times of course when we do everything right and are well prepared and they still have a melt down. Which may feel like their fault but actually it might be no-ones fault as such. I don’t like the word fault as it’s such a harsh word. But I do know that I need to consider more the situations I let my children be in that I know they will find hard and they need me and those around them to protect them from being out of control and scared.

We also had a meeting with our youth leaders this week and again the topic of environment came up. I think about this often in our workshops with schools too. The space and culture we create for our children and young people is so important. If we could think more about that before then we may be able to prevent children getting into a position of being so overwhelmed, anxious and fearful that they behave in ways we find inappropriate and that manifest more problems to deal with.

So my lesson at the moment is to really take responsibility for what I can with my children. If I know they are tired and can’t cope with another late night, then they go to bed early. If an activity will actually make them completely dysregulated and not able to calm down then they don’t take part in that. If me being away causes insecurity and fear, then I need to be around more. It’s not rocket science actually. But we so often forget that even though our children may be in their teens they still need us to help them to regulate themselves. That means during the meltdown but also the help prevent it beforehand too.

There are times that I know something will create stress for my children but I also know they need to go through it. So, school issues for example, they may not be able to avoid the exam or the homework, so we have to make it as painless as possible. My children go to a youth club on a Friday night that I know gets them hyped up as there’s 200+ young people in there, but it’s also a good thing for them to try and manage those relationships and environment. So part of helping them is that I volunteer every other week in the club and try and give them some security. Doesn’t always help of course! But it’s a start.

So whether you’re a parent or someone helping and supporting vulnerable children consider what is your role in keeping them regulated? Think back on a time when it may have all gone wrong. What could you have done differently to avoid that stress for the child? If nothing, then how could you help them regulate within that stressful situation? And also remember that even if you do everything right there are still times when they will have that mega melt down and all you can do is be there for them.

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