Some years ago, my husband really struggled with our life, living with our children’s trauma is difficult, plus he like many parents living with Developmentally Traumatised children has his own issues (stiff upper lip parents, seen and not heard, do as I say and the odd beating just because… but also a need to understand Parenting from the Inside Out in other words know and understand your own triggers). I did not know what to do or where to turn as he would not engage in anything to do with trauma after all children are supposed to do as they are told! He disliked (still does) social media, is averse to training or reading about attachment difficulties, his reasoning being they have a home, they are safe, and we love them, what more can we do? Being honest our marriage was in deep trouble as he felt I was making far too many allowances for our children’s behaviour, too soft and giving in and frankly putting the children before
everything else, including my own safety. Like many others have experienced our children were taking things, not telling the truth, physically, verbally, and emotionally aggressive, pooing/weeing, food issues, destructive, triangulating and more, my husband had had enough, yes, he was in Compassion Fatigue. And to be honest he was in Compassion Fatigue because he struggled with me therapeutically parenting, frankly he just did not get it.
So, I set about nurturing him because I realised after many attempts to “talk” with him, he was in not “hearing me” basically I used PACE to show him I really did understand how difficult it was for him, stepping alongside him helped and after some TLC for both of us, (special meals, movie night and walks) I sent him an email at work, realising he would be more objective and remain calm being surrounded by work colleagues, at first he deleted the email but later retrieved it, read it, and responded.... positively, albeit 3 or 4 weeks later. We are 7 years down the line now, he watches and notes how I am with our children, responds empathetically to them now, is perfect with natural consequences and always uses humour, occasionally asking me “did I get it right?” Yes, we both fall down from time to time, but we are human and boy oh boy it’s so good reconnecting with our children following a blowout.
Hubby does not actively engage in training but often listens over my shoulder during webinars, or whilst I am doing online training and loves the Podcasts, then discusses them later with me, asking questions, making observations. I found this an effective way to get him to recognise Developmental Trauma and Compassion Fatigue and how this has impacted on him and the children.
Of course, DDP helped us too, especially as it gave my husband a voice where he had a platform to vent without judgement, as he often feels professionals “blame” us and offer respite with a stranger for our two children who are terrified of strangers, rather than an empathetic response. The DDP therapist empathised by saying, “this is really difficult for you, no wonder you are shattered, fed up, disillusioned, living with trauma and managing your lives around it is really difficult. Having your wife being physically and verbally abused must have been hard for you.” A professional saying this, really did bring my husband back from the brink. It was at this point I realised the depth of my husband’s struggle with the children and our life, he said he found it especially hard as he felt he had failed as a husband, he said he did not marry me to watch me being abused by our children whom I loved so much, he could not understand why someone you love so much would be so violent. But what really helped too was the therapist asking when do you get time for yourselves? That was a sit up and listen moment, the therapist prescribed lunch out just for the two of us following our monthly sessions and issued a free parking ticket at their offices, to begin with the therapist suggested restaurants to eat at, then my husband did research where we could have a relaxing lunch. I really would highly recommend you all make time, any time for you as a couple to have some quality time together, and if you are a single parent please look to your friendship group and have some quality time with them.
So, everyone who is struggling with their partner, friend or family member, understanding developmental trauma there is hope. Remember this is a two-way process you are a couple, or you are a friendship, family member you are equal, you both have a say, and you all need to work in partnership, actively listen to each other, allow each other to have a say even if you do not like what you are hearing, the words and feelings are real for the narrator. You may be tired having done the washing, cooking, cleaning, childcare and working but it is so important to actively listen, take on board life is hard for your other half or supporter.
Make time for yourselves, email if it is the only way to communicate, meet up with others especially those who have a common bond with you, and be kind to yourselves. Having developmentally traumatised children is incredible hard work, tiring work but together you can do it and the rewards are exponential for parents, families but above all else your children.
Top Tip – Fully embrace PACE until you are blue in the face!
Using PACE will help you to defuse the situation so you can connect with your child, whilst using heaps of empathy and accepting your child struggles in life but ensuring they know you are there for them no matter what, yet you will keep them safe and ensure they do not hurt you or themselves, so saying NO to physical harm is the way forward just so long as your children know you are there for them.