Meet the Need Before the Meltdown: the role of shame in your child’s meltdowns

I am familiar with a boy, when he was younger, would often get dysregulated over something that triggered him – he’d hit, scream, fight, say terrible things to his adopted mother, but then, once he finally calmed a little, he would often ramp up again, for no apparent reason, certainly not for the original reason. Do you know what was happening? The ‘new’ meltdown was because of the shame he felt for having just done whatever terrible thing he did. And so, the meltdown would start all over again. I mean, at the time, it looked to his mother like just one continuous meltdown, and it was only later that she realized the mechanics going on.  When he was operating out of his shame core, this only fueled the meltdown.

We must never forget that our children have a story that started long before we met them. Your child’s history affects their body, brain, beliefs, behaviors, and biology. One way their history affects their beliefs is how they feel about themselves as persons.

All infants deserve to be seen, heard, and valued by their caregivers. What happens when this very basic need goes unmet in infancy or early childhood? How does that affect how they see themselves as precious people?

Our children from hard places often come to us with a very well developed shame core. They’ve already received many messages given to them before we ever met them, that were negative. Some of our kiddos are swimming in shame and their drowning looks like bad behaviors and meltdowns.

It’s been said that abuse sends the message, “I hate you” and neglect sends the message “You don’t exist”. Our kiddos (and if I’m being honest here, the kid in me still struggles with this) aren’t separating their experiences from who they are. They’re not separating out their history and their behaviors from their own self identity and worth. They need us to support them to do that.  BUT HOW????

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some strategies and techniques to help our children break free from the shame of their histories and the shame of past and current failures. Please stay tuned…

Gail

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