Truancy. Resistance.Dysregulation (Harris R)Apr 06, 2023
Hi, it's Lynn your adulting coach. Today we're going to talk about truancy resistance and dysregulation. Thanks to Harris who reached out with this concern. His struggle is his son won't graduate because he won't go to school because of his hormones. So let's tackle this both a short-term and a long-term strategy for Harris and his son because I know that Harris really loves his kid all the way down to his toes and we want to figure this out. We want to teach how to make good decisions; that's our overarching goal are the three disciplines (responsive, structural and expansive).
So the first thing we want to tackle is helping him make better decisions because obviously this decision to resist going to school is probably going to have some longer term impacts that maybe his son doesn't quite understand yet. So let's go through the process. First, we have to accept that what's happening is he's being triggered into this dysregulated state. All the logic in the world that you've presented hasn't shifted it one bit and that's so frustrating because we do have a few more miles on our tires and we do want to warn our kids of some of the of the impact of the decisions that they're making. But we can't start there because they are dysregulated. Their brain is offline. They're not thinking and you know we just have to find another way in. We have to accept that it's not that they need to try harder and the strategies we've used since they were younger was of distraction and disassociation, meaning oh let's look at this Shiny Toy over here so you won't have your have a fit, or all right let's just change the channel or change the video or whatever or hand them the iPad. Somehow just get them from the state where they are now into a more regulated state just by disassociating with the problem. Reasoning just won't work in this case while they're dysregulated. Their brains are offline so for this, that's what we need to keep in mind as a parent. As the young adult, we can help them notice what's going on. Now it's hard at this point so we have to really be patient because they're in the spin cycle. They're in the washing machine you know all their thoughts would have been dumped into their brain their brain's offering them all these protection thoughts and it's they're just spinning around so much it's like a washing machine they can't even sort one thought out from the other. So we have to validate where they are and notice the emotion that they're feeling. That is the way in and it's got to be a short validation. It's got to be you seem really upset or you seem afraid or you seem like you're dreading going to school. Just that short emotion, because you don't have to use the word, just short reflection and then we zip our lip and we do the best we can to be present and attuned to what's going on inside of them. And breathing and taking the shoulders down taking it back a bit just adjusting ourselves so that we are as regulated as we can be while this volcano is going off. That's the best analogy I can think of is we just have to let the volcano go off sometimes. It's helpful to write down some of the thoughts that they have because it's really hard to watch our kids lose it, so we won't remember a lot of what they said. But if we happen to have a pencil or a pen available, if we happen to have otter turned on where we can transcribe this moment, it will help us figure out what that spin cycle of thoughts is that are going on inside of them. That's when instead of trying to access the logic and the reasoning which is gone, we access them both by acknowledging their emotion and by noticing what's happening in their body. You'll you'll see their breath is going to be much more rapid, their heart rate is rapid. Is there a way that they could move? Could we go for a walk? Could we go down the basement and lift some weights together? Could we ride a bicycle someplace? Any way that we can access the body for us to help regulate that vagus nerve and get things settled back down again. It's not going to be through logic, it's going to be through emotions and the body and we want to connect with them in this way because we want to build trust with them that we are the person they want to come to to help them solve their problems. We want to collaborate with them because we know that of all the people, the 8 billion people on the planet, that we are the ones that have their best interest at heart for sure. So we want them to realize the value that we can add to their life, but we have to build this trust with them. And if we can figure out what their love language is, there's the five love languages and I don't know them all off top of my head, but it's service, gifts, time spent, touch and I don't remember the fifth one. But if we can figure out what it is that makes them feel loved, wow that helps.
Now it also helps if we know what our love language is so that our cups are absolutely ready to receive whatever it is that's going on. That's how we open up their spoons. The Spoon Theory is when we think of their body or their energy as having a certain number of spoons, So there's emotional regulation, there's social things, there's just working, doing their homework, or going to a job, or reading. And then they need time to recover so that they can fill those spoons up again. So if we can also figure out what's going on with their spoons this is all going to help them respond better and that's the discipline we're trying to build with them.
Obviously it's going to take more than just one day because now what we want to do is help them add some structure in their life. It's not just about time, it's also about figuring out what matters to them.So if we can anchor in their essence that's when we discover what are the virtues that they most want to practice so that when they are practicing them we can notice them and and remind them of them and complement them. So mine is the scarf (strength, compassion, action, regulation, and focus). I recite this to myself daily more many times a day to make sure that I center in what matters most to me, so somehow as a parent we need to know what that is. I know it always includes love, so let's just anchor in our Essence so that we can center ourselves and notice when our autistic graduates are our best centered. It's usually when they're doing something that they care about. They can tell us what the virtues are that matter most to them and there's exercises inside the Art of Adulting that will help you get to that as quickly as possible. So that's what we want to do is anchor in what matters most to us and matters most to them because they are now transitioning from being told what to do from to being to deciding what to do
If we can hook on to what's important, what they've decided matters to them, then we can make progress because our kids are always tuned into that station, What's in it for me and we want to make sure that we're hooking on to that.
The third discipline is the expansive discipline. We want them to feel the fear, get through it and do the scary thing anyway. This is how we get them to expand their skills and that's what I'm sure is so frustrating for Harris is that he and his son keep going through this same dance and he feels like he's playing whack-a-mole. He's just hitting one thing after it and yet it just keeps popping up. He thinks he got it done yesterday, but it's here again today and that's why the distraction and the disassociation doesn't work. What we really have to get into is what's going on inside; what is the vision for their life that's their anchor and what's the self-talk that keeps going on inside of their head.
So we talked about the anchor, now we're going to talk about the three questions (the what, the so, what and then) now when they are dysregulated it is not the time to try to ask them these questions. But if you can find a way in later when everybody's more calm, we need to find out what the thought is and I'm going to grab that thought that Harris gave us at the beginning. So what is his thought and emotion combination in his hormones? He's thinking my hormones are off so that's why I feel out of control. So that's an interesting sentence to notice and appreciate because now you have a clue as to the type of thinking that's going on in his head. What does he mean by his hormones are off? What's going on? Just hopefully you can say a statement back to him in your validation. "So you don't want to go to school? You feel out of control because of your hormones?" Then you know do the double zip and go forward with writing down what he's thinking. We want to get to the layers, the automatic thinking that he's off. His brain is keeping him stuck in this same pattern. What's going on in there is there any wiggle room for my hormones are changing and that's okay? Or maybe it's my thinking that's influenced by my hormones somehow if we can get a thought that is just a little different from where he is now, but he also believes is true? He finds that sentence true and it's more helpful to him. We just need to move from this sabotaging thought of my hormones are changing and it's out of my control and I can't do anything about that to a helpful thought of well my hormones are changing and maybe that's okay. Somehow that shift will then help him have an emotion of maybe curiosity what part of this is hormones and what part of it is by thinking let me see if I can figure this out so that we can get into an emotion that helps turn on that frontal lobe that helps him think better.
Now the sixth part is what do we do with our actions. We just keep repeating the validations, the listening, the doing our best to understand the reflecting of the thoughts that we get so that they see them. Because we're trying to help them sort out what is real versus what is this versus what is a fact. I mean it feels real to him that his hormones are raging and that's why he can't control his temper. That feels very real. What's true is it's more complicated than that and we need to help him see and sort out the parts that he can and cannot control. Obviously he cannot control the hormones that are happening in his body but the good news is he does have the power to control how he thinks about the hormones in his body and we recognize every time that he notices anything and we recognize in ourselves when we notice something when we are better regulated when we understand and really create that trust, that bond, that stronger connection with our kids, we recognize when we're doing what works and celebrate that. Then we notice what's not working and we go and repeat that again.
The final practice is we keep reviewing the progress we've made. That's one of the problems our kids have with the autistic brain that they have is that they have a hard time extrapolating the lessons from before and applying it to today or projecting what's going to happen in the future. So we want to remind them of all the good things that they've done, of all the progress that they've made, and then what happened in the most recent thing that they were willing to try, what went well, what did we learn and then okay what are we willing to do next. That's when we follow that collaborative problem-solving process by Ross Greene where we talk about the facts, their thoughts, our thoughts, what's next, where do our thoughts and their thoughts overlap, and what are they willing to do, are they confident which is just the willingness to try something else and conduct that experiment to to see what else they can learn.
So those are my best thoughts for you Harris and I know I really appreciate that you have brought them to me and I really hope that you get a chance to come on into the Art of Adult. When you click on the link and learn more about those three disciplines and the seven practices, you'll see that I have a very reasonable offer. I want it to be a reasonably priced offer for you to come and get help directly from me because we know that this is a real learning process that we as parents are going through and it's so rewarding when we see the impact that we can have on our kids and how they learn and grow so that they're going to be okay on their own someday with their increased independent skills.
Bye for now.