Meeting People Where They Are At

It’s another end to another holiday weekend. As always there’s something to be taken away in terms of value. In this case, my youngest daughter has a lot of work in front of her. Therapist/ author Daniel Hughes discusses meeting people where they are at in terms of the healing of reactive attachment disorder. We know when it comes to certain things she may be chronologically one age, but severely behind emotionally in how she’s able to handle day in, day out events.

I’ll take a small instance of explaining a rule we have in our house, and then 20 seconds later she’ll break that rule- with me catching her in the act. She has a mindset that within the home anything she thinks of and desires she should have- irregardless of my role or my wife’s role as a parent. We had her perform a big fix for a temper tantrum she had yesterday- and we need to balance that with showing her she’s still a worthwhile person and a part of the family.

This can be confusing to our oldest daughter. We know the attachment she’s made has been at a deeper level. To her, her younger sister should already be over the fact that she’s not going to reunite with her birth family. Since my oldest has worked through a lot of that trauma, to her the sister already should be beyond this and attaching to us. I mean, it’s been close to 4 years, right? Oh, how I wish everything when it comes to love, trust and understanding could be so black and white.

I explained to my youngest daughter that she’s in a safe home. That parents can have verbal disagreements from time to time (and as best as we try to display these interactions behind closed doors out of the sight of the children, it’s going to happen on occasion out in public) and still love each other without resorting to physical outbursts. She still fears me striking her when I have to physical guide her out of a room. To those of you who’ve known me through the years, I’m not the confrontational, physically challenging type of person. I would rather talk things out and if that doesn’t work, walk away from the situation and regroup.

This will make therapy an interesting scenario on Tuesday afternoon. Will she admit the poor choices she made with her therapists? How will we work on better conflict resolution in the future? Will she be willing to look me in the eye when we have a conversation? Does she realize that as a father I still love her and that I’m not the enemy?

If I could snap my fingers and cure the ills of ages 1-5 with my youngest, most assuredly I would. I don’t want her to have a struggle with men the rest of her life. She just feels like she has to protect herself more than let people in and just live as normal of an adolescent life as can be possible. I want the energy of anguish and pain to go in a better, more positive direction- through work for others, through exercise, through activities that she truly enjoys and will make her happy.

I can’t lecture her. I need to be firm and quick with my instruction, yet patience, loving and understanding with her outcomes. Maybe through our commitment she’ll see that we haven’t given up and that even if you make a mistake, you can learn from it and become stronger in the process.


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