Is being strong, enough? Part 1
I am currently reading a book called 'Strong Mothers, Strong Sons', which is written by Meg Meeker. This is the beginning of my journey towards understanding what I could be doing better when it comes to supporting Ryley with the teenage years (this should benefit Braeden too!).Of course there is nothing in this book so far that relates to teenagers with complex disabilities ie. if they can't talk. However, I do feel as though there is some useful content. My plan is to start sharing my findings, and hopefully, start the process of developing some practical guides for parents of teens with a disability.
One thing I have been reminded of, is how easy it is for a mother to cause pain in her son's heart. While she (or I, such is the case), is busy focusing on how she is feeling about her son's behaviour , her son is slowly backing away because he doesn't feel as though she cares. I get this. It is so easy to make a young person's behaviour personal. Especially when they are kicking you in the head or trying to trip you over. But what we need to remember is, young people are not trying to make their parents suffer or hurt. They just want them to notice them. They want our help. But they don't quite know how to ask for it.
I have found this to be true in my professional life. For those that know me in real life, you will know I am a Mental Health Clinician and one of my areas of expertise is adolescent mental health. So you can probably also see why I am so bothered by the fact that I don't know how to support my own son. I mean, I know this stuff. Back to front and round and round. I understand that teenagers are mostly just scared. Or sad. Or struggling with identity. They have issues with friends. Issues with parents and siblings. Teenagers want to try new things, but often are not emotionally ready for the consequences.
They mostly just need love. Lots and Lots of it. More love than ever before. Quite often, though they use behaviour to push the ones they need the most, away from them.
I can remember being 15. I was not overly confident or extroverted but I had a great group of friends. I yearned for freedom from my family and dreamt of what my future may look like. I read books and wrote in my diary if I was struggling with something. Yet there were times when I wanted to die, and I was certain that no one would notice if I wasn't around.
That sadness and frustration often felt like I was screaming but no one was listening. This is what I feel like is happening for Ryley. He is screaming for help, but to him, it feels like no one can hear him. The behaviour is normal in a way. He can't talk, so he isn't able to put anything into words. So he needs to cry and become emotional. He needs to kick me in the head, or push me or hit my phone out of my hand. He needs to throw himself to the ground in frustration. This is his way of getting me to notice.
So the past week, I have started to change things a little. When he gets angry, I sit with him. I say nothing. I don't get angry back. I just open up the space around him and be there with him. I have lowered my voice. I have not reacted as much to his attempts to hurt me or trip me over. I am trying to just let him ride the emotion out. After all, this is what I teach my clients every day. All emotions will pass, especially if you consider that they are only energy in motion (e=motion). It may be uncomfortable, but at some point, the worst will move through you.
This is not an easy thing to do. Believe me. It is not easy at all. Only tonight, after school, Ryley wanted a bath. I had a few things to do first, and usually he waits for his Dad to come home to bath or shower him. But he was tired and impatient and getting annoyed. So he tried to trip me. He grabbed at my arm and tried to pull me the other way. He pushed me. He sat on me and hit me. I could feel my own frustration bubbling up inside. But I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I was silent. I waited until he calmed himself (or resigned himself to the fact that I wasn't giving in). He walked away from me.
Did this go well? Good question! He did come back and go and bring me his suitcase (he did it last night too). He started grabbing clothes and throwing them in the suitcase, so quite possibly he was telling me he was leaving home or running away.
Which is a pretty typical teenage thing to do really.