Improv Wisdom part 2

Here is part 2 of Moffled Improv Wisdom. The maxims are a call to lightening up & living an unscripted life.

These are techniques used by generations of musicians & actors that Dan Hughes recognised could be equally helpful to therapists, parents, teachers & other professionals in their relationships & work with traumatised children.

I like the call to celebrate the obvious & notice everything. It fits so well with the notion of approaching life with a ‘beginner’s mind’. Looking at the world with beginner’s eyes – as if we are seeing everything for the first time – can help us to be more curious & act less hastily. Being in attuned relationships relies on us being mindfully aware of what is happening moment by moment. It is the coordinated dance that can happen between us when we are paying close attention to what is in front of us. And attending to exactly what is in front of us is the true work.

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National Adoption Week

In National Adoption Week, we send love to all the different people who are affected by adoption in different ways. It’s a time to celebrate all the joy & happiness that adoption has brought to so many new families. A time to advocate for good support for adoptive families living with the ongoing challenges that relational trauma can bring. And it’s also a time to remember the birth families that have experienced disruption, sadness & loss.

Improv Wisdom

We’ve Moffled the 13 strategies from the book, Improv Wisdom. Here is part 1. They are a call to lightening up & living an unscripted life.

 I was introduced to them by Dan Hughes many years ago on my DDP training & I have kept a copy on my office wall ever since.  A great prompt to try & stay present in the moment, to remember the importance of attending to exactly what is in front of us, & to keep trying.

These are techniques used by generations of musicians & actors that Dan recognised could be equally helpful to therapists, parents, teachers & other professionals in their relationships & work with traumatised children. A recognition of the artistry we all engage in when we are in attuned relationships.

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National Adoption Week

In National Adoption Week, we send love to all the different people who are affected by adoption in different ways. It’s a time to celebrate all the joy & happiness that adoption has brought to so many new families. A time to advocate for good support for adoptive families living with the ongoing challenges that relational trauma can bring. And it’s also a time to remember the birth families that have experienced disruption, sadness & loss.

Since the 1990’s, adoption has become a more open process, with encouragement for children to know & understand their birth history from an early age. There is better support (although this still needs much more investment) for ongoing contact with birth family members & research indicates that any contact works best where there is a clear focus on the needs of the child.

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Sidewalk Flowers

A girl in a red coat walks through a grey city with her father. Whilst he is busy she picks wildflowers along the roadside. Then she quietly gifts them to others she meets along the way. As the flowers are shared, the colours on the pages bloom & finally at home, the girl tucks a flower behind her own ear. A book to remind us of the wonder to be found in ordinary things & the beauty of small kindnesses.

One of the delights of this story told only in pictures, is the space we have to weave our own words around it. To explore together how it touches us. When our child has experienced relational trauma in the past, we know this will be harder for them than for other children & so we can more actively take the lead.

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Calm is a Superpower!

Staying calm for our child is a very big challenge sometimes. It requires good self-regulation – an awareness of our mind & body; our stressors; the signs we are becoming overstressed & knowing what we need to return to a balanced state.

In the face of competing work & family demands, cultivating calmness & wellbeing can seem like another task for our ‘to do’ list & one that we rarely feel justified in prioritising. Calmness in the face of the storm starts to feel like a superpower & out of the reach of mere mortals. Even more so if we notice that critical inner voice, telling us we ought to be able to do it more often, more quickly, or for longer. Shame becomes like kryptonite.

Reject the pressure to be a superhero & be more like a Moffle instead!

M Make moments matter. Just pausing now & then for a few deep breaths & observing your thoughts, feelings & body can develop your self-awareness.

O Offer yourself some kindness, as you would to a friend who is struggling. Self-compassion isn’t always easy, so notice this, too & take your time.

FFocus on one step at a time, as you work at self-care. Set small, achievable goals. On the days even these goals are too hard, again, try to offer yourself kindness.

FForgive yourself when you mess up. Conflict is an inevitable part of family life. Focus on repair & show your child that you’re invested in reconnecting with them.

LLook for the sparkling moments & celebrate small successes. Try to hold them in your heart. They can help to lighten the hard times.

EEmpathise with yourself, not only your child. Empathy grows when we’re curious about our thoughts & feelings, rather than rushing to judge ourselves.

SSlow down. Whenever you can. We rarely need to respond immediately to anything. Go back to ‘M’ & make moments matter.

Woven Moffle

Here’s a cardboard Moffle with a woven body of coloured beads & threads.  Different colours to represent different feelings. Children can sometimes find it easier to talk about their thoughts & feelings when they’re focused on arts &crafts. Weaving is an idea for helping to occupy little fingers that like to fiddle! I might playfully ask children I’m working with, ‘What do you think your hands might need right now to help your ears to listen, as we talk together?’ A fiddle toy or activity of some description can often help.  Have fun!

Love Beam

Children with relational trauma find it very hard to trust that we will care for them, nurture them & guide them. They’ve been hurt deeply in the past by adults who should have protected them. They close their hearts to relationships, to avoid the risk of more pain.

Unresolved trauma creates a sense of loneliness & isolation. Imagine never experiencing the warmth of social connection, or the confidence that someone is holding you in mind & truly accepts you just as you are.

These are the children who need us the most. Who need us to look beyond their fear & all their strategies to push us away & make us mad at them. Who need to hear we know they are hurting & understand why it’s hard for them to allow us to get close.

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The Way Home for Wolf

Wilf is a wolf cub who wants to be fierce & to try everything all on his own. When his elders set out to look for a new home, Wilf finds it hard to accept that he is too small to lead. He struggles to keep up & won’t howl for help. All alone, he falls through the ice but as he spins downwards, a narwhal comes to his rescue. What feels like the end for Wilf becomes just the beginning, as he is assisted by a series of arctic animal friends to re-join his pack. The wolves cuddle him close again & Wilf has learnt he can accept support. A pacy, rhyming story that carries us safely out of the cold & darkness of solitude, into the warmth of friendship, kindness & love.

A young child can naturally show stubbornness, as they begin to explore their identity. They learn first about who they are in close relationships with their primary carers. If they experience their parent as delighting in them, celebrating their strengths & guiding them with their struggles, they develop a rounded sense of self. They feel accepted & have confidence that their vulnerability is valued as much as their independence; that all parts of themself will be honoured. A securely attached child may be wilful sometimes, but they learn that its ok to rely on others, too.

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Behaviour Support – a relational approach

A dilemma many parents & carers of children with developmental trauma have is how to deal effectively with challenging behaviour. A relational approach to answering this, emphasises the importance of behaviour support, rather than behaviour management.

A traumatised child may struggle to accept boundaries, as they perceive them as being an evaluation of their core self, rather than of their behaviour. This is very anxiety provoking for a child with deep fears of being bad & who anticipates abandonment. Discipline becomes evidence of their badness & that the adults will get rid of them. Anxiety quickly leads to dysregulation, feelings of shame, & triggering of more challenging behaviour.

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