Monday, May 23, 2011

GBB Question: Freezing

This has come up 2 times in the past 12 hours, so I figure it must be right to talk about when our kids "Freeze!" Today, one mom spoke about how her son wouldn't answer (just wouldn't answer!) when she asked him what was on the kitchen counter. He clammed up and wouldn't talk anymore. Another mom commented on the blog that just asking a question would put her child into a "fear state" and caused her to "freeze up and disassociate."

One of the biggest things I connected for myself this past weekend was that when Samren gets "stuck" he is not being defiant! WOW! When Samren is "lazy" it's not really "laziness." This is Samren's brain on stress!

Adopted kids are traumatized kids. Lots of "biological" kids are traumatized too. Traumatized kids have screwed up regulatory systems. They feel stress at times that we adults don't "get" at all. Really? You're stressed about putting your shoes on? You're stressed about folding laundry? You're stressed about eating this great meal?

We've all heard of "fight or flight" in high school psychology. We learned that when faced with a threatening situation, our amygdala tells us to run away, or stay and fight. Scientists have learned more recently that even before we fight or flee, we FREEZE! There is a time when we freeze in order to decide what to do. Sometimes, people get stuck in freeze! What "freeze" looks like to people is laziness and defiance.

A brain under stress literally cannot think clearly. A brain under stress has a horrible short term memory. A brain under stress is a confused brain. When we parents get upset and are talking/yelling to our kids while they are under stress, our kids her "wah, wah, wah, wah, wah" (Peanuts teacher voice).

So what do we do when our kids freeze? We help them become unstuck. We speak to them in love, not about the behavior, but about the stress. "Wow buddy. When I asked you that question it really freaked you out. What's going on?" If they can't give us words, we might try to fill in the blanks for them. [They can choose to agree or disagree.] "I bet it makes you really scared when you think mom is mad at you. Oh bud, I bet that even makes you wonder if I could get mad enough to send you away."

The goal is to "regulate" our kids--get them out of that stress state. Once that happens, we can then talk to them in a loving way about the original issue (if it even still matters).

The hardest part of this for me is to focus on the stress, NOT the behavior. The behavior is only a symptom of the stress. If I can help my child's stress disappear, the behavior will also disappear.

I's way out there. WAY out there. It's so WEIRD! That's why it's wonderful.


P.S. Seriously? "Amygdala" isn't in blogger's spell check?!


Heather 3:12 PM  

You know, I both love this, and disagree with it. I can TOTALLY relate to the freezing part. I know in times past, yes, unloading the dryer, grocery shopping, getting dressed FEELS stressful for me and I freeze. I stop functioning completely. Even as an adult. Heck that was the first few years of my marriage!

But I also firmly believe that some kids defy for reasons other than stress. I see that "freezing" that you talk about often in Mary, especially when she thinks she's in trouble. But Sophia makes choices about defying more out of a lack of cause and effect thinking. I'd love to hear more. I'd love to hear the presentations in person. But I still have mixed feelings about it all!

A. Gillispie 4:22 PM  

I know where you're coming from sister. The hardest part of this for me was really coming to a TRUE believe that kids don't do these things on purpose. It was REALLY hard to swallow. And not giving consequences for poor behaviors? What?! That one was even tougher to swallow. I'm telling you, this stuff is out there, but once you really get the science and emotion behind it, it makes sense. I think for most anybody it will take time to accept this stuff, if they ever do.

The base belief with this method is that ALL of this stuff is due to stress.

Mama D.'s Dozen 8:08 PM  

We see "freezing" a lot with Rachel. I do understand that much of it is from stress. She doesn't (usually) get in trouble for freezing. If she doesn't answer a question from me, I will often just go about my business, not requiring anything from her. But, it is very frustrating.

I agree with Heather, that Rachel's freezing is not always due to stress. There are many reasons that children may choose to be defiant and not want to answer a question from dad and mom (this can come from bio. teens that have not lived trauma filled lives).

I look forward to hearing more from you, and seeing how your kids respond in the long-term.

No consequences for bad behavior? How does that work with all of the other kids that see one child "get away with things"? Or, do you believe in not giving any kids consequences for bad behavior?


Ericka 9:21 AM  

Yes, I can see this with S.
Every. thing. means stress.
She doesn't freeze that much at school, but at home where a 'relationship' is, she is absolutely terrified.
I do agree with Heather, that sometimes it's just pure control. And sometimes she does it to p*ss me off because she knows I want to have a ' relationship' with her.....but sometimes it's good ole freeze or flight stress mentality. S is the same as Mary, as soon as she *thinks* she may get into trouble.....complete shut down.

A. Gillispie 9:45 PM  

Laurel, I have now come to believe that what looks like defiance is stress. This is a method for TRAUMATIZED kids. I'm just talking about how they respond, and why. "Regular" kids, I don't know. Don't have them. =-)

I said the no consequences thing a bit for shock value! Don't worry--the kids aren't running the house now. I know it sounds weirdo but it is working wonderfully. Basically, why would I punish my children for actions that were brought on with their amygdala was pumping huge amount of stress hormone into their frontal cortex--therefore making it IMPOSSIBLE for them to make good choices? Instead, I'm going to focus on the stress behind the behavior, and see it as an opportunity to help my kiddos heal. More soon on that...