We have had 2 sessions since my last blog post, it has been a pretty busy few weeks which is why we’re combining them (writing about each session was a good idea but much harder in practice!). For a change Nick is writing this post (his first one) so I will hand over to him…
One of the things that has come up a lot recently is Tom talking about having been in a car that crashed and hit a wall. Some of the details make it seem made-up (a four year old was driving!) but it’s been repeated often enough that we began to think it was at least partly a real memory. Dr. S suggested ways of helping him to talk more about it, and to distinguish between memories and pretend events.
The most useful tip here was to try talking to one another about it – “Mummy, do you think sometimes Tom remembers things that are hard for him?” “I think sometimes, Daddy, Tom can remember things that were very scary but can’t always remember all about it.” “Do you think Tom knows that some stories aren’t real?” – without directly talking to your child, but keeping the conversation open enough for them to join in. Results from this have been a bit varied but Tom does seem to find more helpful than direct questioning.
Dr. S had taken on board that the intensity of adoptive parenting makes it really hard to switch off, so we spent some time on ‘mindfulness,’ which involves narrowing your focus to the sensations of a specific activity. We were set to work on enjoying some strawberries and chocolate – so far so good – but then had to encourage each other to explore and describe the experience, which was a bit weird! However we both felt a bit more chilled afterwards, so perhaps it did help.
I took Tom to the barbers’ the day before this session, and he gave a twenty-minute nonstop story the whole way there. Every sentence began with either “And do you know…” or some version of “when I was a baby…” and was a mix of recently read books, TV stories and what may have been real events or at least Tom’s impression of them. Dr. S looked at helping him to explore these stories and tried to give us some tools for understanding his past, based on the material from last week.
So far, however, Tom has shown no interest in anything beyond his own stories, though he is occasionally able to say that a particular incident is ‘pretend.’ This is complicated by his limited grasp of Time, meaning that lots of stories begin “when I was a grown-up” or “last week” when they can’t have been. We do have plans to try and help him draw/develop some sort of timeline picture but we won’t be doing this until all the Starting School mayhem has died down.
We have a few weeks off while Tom starts school and are seeing Dr S possibly for the last time when hopefully we will know who is going to be providing the therapy.
In the mean time we will continue to help Tom label his emotions and discuss what he means by them in a PACE way.