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Messy Rooms

Is your child’s room untidy, messy or a complete tip?


Director Sarah Dillon shares helpful tips around staying sane as a Therapeutic Parent!


1. Your child isn’t doing this to you

2. The child externalises their internal chaos

3. They may not even know what ‘tidy up’ actually means or how to do it

4. It’s comfortable being in the wrong. The mess feels familiar and therefore strangely comforting

5. The child is conditioned (wired), this way. They need help to retire their brains through repetition. You have to complete a task an average of 400 times to build a synapse in the brain! Might take a few years

6. Their room is their space and is often messy as a visual representation of their trauma.

7. Maybe the child doesn’t have words for their pain, distress, trauma memories and expresses this/tells you via the behaviour.

8. Child is much younger than chronological age. What would a toddler’s room look like?

9. Child needs parental presence and help to complete task. This is called ‘coming alongside’ not doing it for them (although sometimes this can be an act of nurture), but with them.

10. Naming the need. In a light-hearted way, such as “oh my goodness, your room is very untidy/messy today, I wonder if it sometimes feels this way in your heart/head. I’m here to help you with any messy feelings, perhaps we can talk about those whilst we Tidy your room”

11. Don’t ask child to Tidy room, they probably won’t as it’s a request. They’ll probably say ‘No’ or simply won’t do it. Traumatised child feels they need to be In Control to feel safe.

12. State what you need before next activity etc. Such as “Tidy your room, then we’ll go to the park”. If they can’t do this on their own, do together in a light hearted/playful fashion. That way you’ll retain some sanity

13. Don’t take things away or use reward charts, this is shame inducing and taking something away from a child who had already lost everything, family, home, friends, school etc. is a pointless exercise!

14. Once completed, thank the child and move on.

15. Choose your battles, use natural or logical consequences (Always with nurture). That’s a shame, you must have forgotten to put your favourite top in the wash and now you need it for youth group, sadly it won’t be clean in time now, hopefully you’ll remember next time”.

16. Let off steam with an empathic supporter, listening circle etc.

17. Smile and shut the door! You have bigger battles to work on.




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