Does your child struggle with controlling their big emotions? Do they seem angry or frustrated most of the time? We've got some answers! Join us to listen to this interview with Dr. Stuart Shanker, a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Psychology at York University and author of several books, including Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Reframed: Self-Reg for a Just Society. He is also an adoptive dad.
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Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show, as well as the director of the nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about helping our kids regulate big emotions. We will be talking with Dr. Stuart Shanker. He is a distinguished research professor emeritus of philosophy and psychology at York University. He is the founder of the merit center, and author of several books, including self regulate how to help your child and you break the stress cycle and successfully engage with life. And a new book refrained self Reg, for a just society, he was also the former president of the Council of early child development. Welcome, Dr. Shanker to creating a family.
Unknown Speaker 0:48
Thank you, it is lovely to be here done.
Dawn Davenport 0:50
Well, you specialize in self regulation. And that is a great topic for us. Because a lot of our kids struggle with self regulation for a host of reasons. Some have experienced abuse and neglect in their earlier life, many of them have experienced significant loss, and a substantial portion have also experienced prenatal substance exposure, alcohol and drug exposure in utero. So self regulation is something that, that, or regulation, or the need for self regulation is something that we know a lot about. So I'm looking forward to this. You talk about three basic principles to self regulation. And I think that would be a good grounding for us to begin this with, can you talk can you tell us what those three principles are? And then we'll talk about them for just a bit.
Speaker 2 1:42
So let me start off by telling all of you that I think one of the reasons why I was invited to do this show is because both of my kids are adopted, both of my kids had exactly the kinds of problems that we are talking about today. So for me, this wasn't simply a scientific activity. This was real. I lived it day to day. And I realized even before my children were born, that there is no such thing as a bad, lazy or stupid kid. That's principle number one. Amen. Why do we say that? Other than, you know, we hope that's the case. Well, I am, what Don didn't mention is I ran a neuroscience lab for many years. And it was kind of unique. On one half of the lab, we had a team of therapists. And we worked with children that were on the spectrum, primarily, children that were having a great deal of trouble self regulating, or being regulated. And on the other half, we had our neural lab. And there we could study what was going on in the brain, when they were hyper aroused, meaning dysregulated and the effects of intervention, the effects of working on self regulation, that's what we did for a living. There has been the most extraordinary revolution in neuroscience over the last 20 years, we are only in the very early stages of explaining the significance of all this to mom and dad. But it's huge. And so one of the things that we've learned is, to put it simply, this is just a tiny little brain. And it's just starting to form its connections. And for kids that have experienced some sort of, let's say, trauma, where trauma is not just something physical or social, but trauma could also be chemical things that happened in utero, those are traumatic for developing brain. And this does the following to developing brain what it does is it makes it very sensitive hypersensitive to certain kinds of stress. All of your kids are easily overstressed. That's a kind of funny thing to say because I'm talking about babies, infants, toddlers, how can they get over stressed? me the answer is the scientific definition of stress. And that is anything that requires the brain to burn energy to stay in this sort of sweet spot to stay in its functional range. So for a baby, the big stresses the biggest stress of all for a baby for a newborn is light. Light is us. Stress. Why do we say that light is a stress? Well, BB has been in a very dark place for nine months. And when they're exposed what they're exposed to, you know, in Spanish, you say Donna loose, which is a wonderful way of explaining that you're suddenly exposed to all this light. Light is energy light is photons. And they're bombarding the nervous system. So the brain responds, and it's got to create some neuro chemicals. Adrenaline basically, so that it so that it can handle the light so that it doesn't, it doesn't break down. So the baby starts producing adrenaline, adrenaline burns energy. So the baby's producing adrenaline because of the light, or because of the sound. Sound is also a stress, or because of the cold temperature, they're used to a nice warm environment, and now they're exposed to cold air, or someone that's, that's rubbing them with the towel or pricking them in the heel. All of these are stresses, all of these require this little tiny brain to burn energy. Now, for a child, who has had some sort of a trauma, in utero, these are even bigger stresses, these are even more expensive, they require more energy. And so what we find with little guys, is if they've had some sort of stress, even before they were born, it changes the threshold for their how much energy they're going to burn, our kids burn a lot of energy, our kids burn more than typical kids neurotypical circle,
Dawn Davenport 6:59
is that why we often will tell parents, one of the first things when you see your child struggling with behavior, is you kind of go through a mental checklist and say, when's the last time they've eaten when's the last time they had something, some water or some something to drink it because of that they're actually burning so much more. And we have to be cognizant of that.
Speaker 2 7:19
I just love what you just said. So there's two things to what Don just said there that we have to unpack. The first is she just, she just told all of you, you got to reframe your kids behavior. So what that means is you got to ask yourself, why, and why now, I'll give you a real simple example. So my older boy has autism. My older boy would have a fit. Every time we went to the supermarket shopping with him when he was when he was an infant and a toddler. It was tough.
Dawn Davenport 7:57
In there, done that understand.
Speaker 2 8:00
Okay, so here's your kid, everybody else's shopping your mean? Looks, you know, why can't you control your kid? Yeah. But we're going to reframe, and the supermarket is a sort of, it's a scientific lab on how to stress us. I mean, that literally, they've actually studied how to create stress this because it drives sales higher. Okay, so here's my little guy. And he's stressed by the sound of, you know, all these people or the wheels on the floor, or he's stressed by the cold air that's coming, or all the stresses are overloading his nervous system. Okay, so that's the first point. So the first point that Don made was you got to reframe his speed he, he's not being a bad kid. He's overstressed. It's a stress reaction. Now, the second point she made was Okay, so now, you're going to go through your what, what she called a mental checklist, you know, did he sleep? Did he eat you? Were gonna do all those things. Were my kids having a tough time. But what about when I'm in the supermarket? And I know that the stresses that my kid is under, are I've got to get through this. I need my food. I need a weekly food.
Dawn Davenport 9:15
Yeah. And I've got things to do. And this is, you know, somehow this is the only time I have or whatever, yes, that's life.
Speaker 2 9:21
And I know that he's, I know, he's eaten. I know he's slept. I also know because I heard this guy, the scientists from from Canada saying, Well, you know, there's all these stresses that I don't think of, because they don't really affect me. I not really overstressed by the cold or whatever. What am I supposed to do now? Now, Don, do I have your permission to do one tiny little bit in neuroscience?
Dawn Davenport 9:46
Sure. Go for it. Okay.
Speaker 2 9:49
So this is one of the discoveries we've made literally within the last couple of years. I said to you a few minutes ago, that a stress is in Anything that requires the kid to burn energy to stay regulate, that's what stress is. Where does the energy come from? Well, he's got that energy stored away in his organs in his bloodstream and in his fat cells. It's stored, waiting to be used. But to use it, the brain unleashes a neurochemical wave. And this is what we call the stress response, its function is to give the kid all of the energy that he needs to convert it into usable energy. Okay, so these neurons, these brain cells are in a tiny little system, in an even smaller little system, in the very middle of the brain. Okay, he's, here's my kid, now, there's a lot of stress going on. He's pumping out adrenaline to cope with all this stress, I'm seeing all the behavior problems that happen as a result. But the brain has another secret in that same little system. The same little system inside the heart of the brain, or another group of neurons, they're nestled together, and they turn off the stress response, they turn off the adrenaline, the air called oxytocin. So everybody, so Dawn is nodding, because she knows all about oxytocin. We know that's the cuddle chemical. But now we know that the first function is to turn off the adrenaline, turn off the stress response. And so that introduces a really interesting question. Okay, so here I am, I'm in the supermarket, my kids happened to melt down. And I'm saying to myself, Oh, geez, I know he's stressed. And I know you need some oxytocin. And I don't think they sell oxytocin in aisle 16. So how am I going to give him oxytocin. And this is one of the secrets of the brain, we have little receptors in our skin, in our ears, receptors, that when they are stimulated, trigger oxytocin. We triggered this by gently holding our child gently stroking our child talking to our child in a soft voice, all of these things, trigger oxytocin, they turn off the stress response. Now, I'll give you a great example, a couple of nights ago, my older boy, who is now 21, was incredibly stressed. When he came home. He's working now he had some hard things happen at work. And people said mean things because he's just sick. autistics have a little trouble, you know, monitoring what they say. And what I said to him was now how do you trigger oxytocin, all he needed from me was oxytocin. He didn't need a lecture. He didn't need me to sell him. Well, you know, that's like four, or he needed me to give him oxytocin, he needed to hug. But the thing is, 21 year olds don't like to be hugged.
Dawn Davenport 13:17
Especially by their dad, sometimes, especially by their desk.
Speaker 2 13:19
So I said to him, when I saw him, I said, Sweetheart, I have had a real tough day. I know you had a hard day, but I hadn't even worked stay in, I could really use a hug right now. And I could feel the tension in his muscles start to relax, I could feel the adrenaline that had been triggered, turn off, then we could have a conversation now that he's come back to calm. Now we can talk a little bit about, you know, how we can avoid these things in the future, or how we can handle it now. But not in the middle, not when my child is having a meltdown. In the middle of the supermarket. The worst thing I can do is to yell at my kid, the worst thing I can do is to say, you know, just it's only five more minutes and then and then we'll go do such and such, my kid in this state can't process anything that I'm saying that part of their brain is shut down. What my child needs, from me, is what they needed when they were six months old. They need me to soothe their nervous system. And the miracle is, I can do that. Just with my voice. We now know one of the other discoveries we now made is that the voice that speaking is also a form of touch that the sound waves coming out of our voice. They soothe they trigger oxytocin In the eardrum, provided, we speak softly, gently. So, in order to do that I have to be calm, in order for my voice to have this calming effect in order for my hug or whatever, to have this calming effect. I have to be calm myself. Hmm. Point number three, the self regulation starts with us being rigid, us being calm. If I'm calm, I am able to trigger oxytocin then like it. Okay.
Dawn Davenport 15:36
Yeah, self regulation goes both ways. We often Yeah, we think of we're trying to help our kids self regulate. But in the heat of the moment, you are so right. We feel our stress and our adrenaline rising too. Because we're frustrated. We, this wasn't in our plans. You know, this isn't we don't have time for this, whatever, you know, that the things that we go through in our heads, and also fear sometimes we're just kids, it's just, well, this kid ever stop this, you know, this type of thing? And that all of those things are natural.
Speaker 2 16:09
Yes, it Yes. No, here's another aspect of this. You just tweaked my memory? It works both ways. You said and you're absolutely right. Because one of the other discoveries we found is, when we turn off our kids stress response, we get the same oxytocin, we get up first ourselves. So this, especially if it
Dawn Davenport 16:33
works, if we see that our child yes is is we're lowering our voice, we're giving them something to eat, we're getting them some water, and all of a sudden we see them calm down. It calms us down. You're right. Yeah.
Speaker 2 16:46
So the more we learn about the brain, the more we learn, that there really isn't such a thing as a bad kid. What's happening is it's an overstressed kid. And the better we understand why my child is overstressed, and every kid is different. I'll tell you, I'll tell parents two things here. One, every kid is different. So what is a stressor? Your kid may not be a stressor. Anybody else? And to the little bugger changes on you all the time?
Dawn Davenport 17:17
Yeah, no, dadgum it just when you figure it out? Yeah. Although there are some constants, yes. Let me pause here to tell you about some free courses we have on our website to help strengthen your family. These courses are supported by the jockey being Family Foundation, you can find them at Bitly slash JBf support, that's bi T dot L, Y, slash, j, b, f support. And you can choose from a library of courses, and you couldn't get credit if you need credit for continuing ed. However, even if you don't, they're just good for increasing your your ability to be a great parent to your child. Be sure to tell your friends about him as well. You know, we had talked about the three principles. The other two, I'm gonna just say the second one, because I really want to focus some on the third one. The second one is that all people can learn to self regulate. But the third one is that and I think this is important, there is no such thing as a fixed outcome. Because I think that oftentimes, especially well, regardless of what age, the child is, when they come into our home, but I think especially when the child is past infancy, it's easy to fall into that thinking that this is the way they are this is because of all the stuff that happens, what I'm going anything I do is not going to change this child. So it's a matter of just kind of getting through. So I really like that third principle is that there's not a fait accompli here when a child enters our home.
Speaker 2 18:55
So we would have parents come in to clinic on the first day, and say to us precisely what Don just said that, you know, they had given up hope. And they felt that even if I was right, that this behavior is now so entrenched. So a big one would be anger. I won't go into the neuroscience of why this child has an anger response. It's always mixed with fear. But let's just say that patterns do become more and more entrenched. By the time they're 10 years old. Those patterns are very entrenched. And in psychology, we use a tool that's called a personality index. And the idea is that by the age of 10, you're never going to change this pattern. And what we found was over and over, there is no age at which you can't change a pattern. Now how do you do it that That's what
Dawn Davenport 20:00
everybody wants to know exactly that $64 million question.
Speaker 2 20:03
So the first thing we're going to do is we're going to reframe our kids behavior. Now we know that our kid is going from zero to 60, you know, in a split second, they're having that anger response, or they're having that fear response or just a general meltdown. And so our second step is we're going to figure out what the stresses are, we're going to become a stress detective. Now, I'm going to tell your parents something that's really, really important. When you look at stresses, some of them are obvious. Okay, so you've taken your kid to the supermarket? Well, that's obvious. That's, that's clearly, that's clearly the stress, and you can figure it out. But some of the stresses that our kids go through, are hidden. And what we mean by that is that in the moment, it doesn't seem like this is this couldn't be a stress, a hidden stress is one, which triggers adrenaline, several hours later. So let me give you a great example. I went through a phase, I'd come back to Canada from England, and become a prof and I was finding it a little stressful. And I discovered butter Brickle ice cream.
Dawn Davenport 21:25
And it sounds great. Actually,
Speaker 2 21:27
it was real good. And it started off, I have just like a quarter of a teaspoon and it was really soothing. And pretty soon, by the end of the month, I was up to a bucket. So that became my ritual. And I was having an awful lot of trouble sleeping, I'd fall asleep really well. And then wake up at one two in the morning and then have trouble getting back to sleep. So the I had to be careful. I describe myself here I was gonna say the doofus.
Dawn Davenport 22:02
No such thing as a doofus.
Speaker 2 22:06
Either, so I thought, Okay, so I've been having trouble. And I was working at this time with a bunch of psychiatrists and sleep clinics. I said, you guys got to give me something. Cuz, and I thought it was the stress of, you know, being a prof and setting up lab. And so, you know, I'd come home, I'd have my ice cream, and then I pop zopiclone to keep myself sleeping. And then I wake up in the morning, and I was all Tozi from the topic phone. So that's something wasn't working. So here's the thing, that ice cream that bowl of ice cream, what it was doing was, I don't want to be too technical. But we have another neurochemical that wakes us up. It's called Rexy. And what the ice cream does is the sugar, it turns off those neurons, that's why we get drowsy. That's why it helps us fall asleep. But the problem is that sugar is actually a toxin, it's actually a poison for us. If we have too much sugar in the bloodstream, it can cause all kinds of cellular damage. So we got to get rid of your sugar. And we have to break it down, we have to break down the glucose and everybody into Don's knows exactly what I'm talking about here we're gonna produce insulin. So what happens is, the sugar makes me the ice cream made me drowsy. And then my brain goes to work to make the glucose safe for me to break it down into little molecules. And it does that in the liver and in the pancreas. So while I'm sleeping, my brain and my organs are working like crazy, and the middle of the night to get rid of it all. It releases adrenaline, it releases two neural chemicals that are basically drunk. That's why I was waking up. So here I was doing something that didn't seem like it was a stress, it was helping me go to sleep, it was a hidden stress. And same is true for our kids. We can give them say a soft drink, or we can give them a sweet at night. And that helps them fall asleep. And then I find that around one o'clock I'm up trying to get my child back to sleep. And in our case, both of our kids had a great deal of trouble falling asleep. And there are biological reasons for that and had a great deal of trouble staying asleep. It took a lot of patients for them both to become and they are great sleepers. And if you go back to the very first thing that Don said they need sleep, and we know if they're under slept, that they're going to have behavior issues or emotional issues. So again, if they're having sleep problems if you're Kids is having problems falling asleep. This is because of the stress load. The stress is built up, there's too much adrenaline in their system. If we do something, like let them play a video game to make them drowsy, just before they fall asleep, we will pay the price three or four hours later. That's what we mean by hidden stresses, things that cause that adrenaline burst several hours afterwards. And we can figure all these out, we can figure out what's a hidden stress for my kid.
Dawn Davenport 25:35
What are some typical, as you just mentioned, food video games, video, video games. Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 25:40
screen time, screen time is a big one for our kids.
Dawn Davenport 25:41
Yeah, exposure to the blue light
Speaker 2 25:45
exposure to the blue light. So then the question is, so I, you know, I mean, I ran this clinic for a decade, I never had a kid that wasn't addicted in one way or another to screentime. And so that raised a really interesting question for us, you know why? And so any parents who's listening, if you want to figure out, look, it's not that the activity itself is bad, a little stuck in a hurt, it's when the kid won't get off. And you have to really force them off. And then you ask yourself, you know, how is how was my kid when I forced him to get off with a nice, sweet, calm complaint? I don't think so. So if you had a nightmare getting turned off, it tells you there's something going on in the brain. And so I'll tell you real, real fast what it is. Our kids, all of our kids are what's called hypo dopaminergic. And what that means is they don't have enough dopamine. And they need dopamine, which is another neurochemical. They need dopamine, to feel positive in life to be motivated to go to do things to want to learn. So why are our kids? And I'm pretty comfortable saying this. Why are all of our kids at risk of being hypo dopaminergic not having enough? No reason is because stress shuts down inhibits dopamine neurons. If they have too much stress, go back to where we started, they won't have enough dopamine, and the games the screen time, they are geniuses at what's called dopamine hijacking, how to trigger dopamine. They do it with lights and colors and noise. We live in a world of dopamine hijacking. And it is studied, the guys who design these games, studied psychology research from 1970s telling you how to trigger dopamine, literally. So what our kid is doing our hypo dopaminergic kid is doing is they're going to the screen time to get that shot of dopamine because they want dopamine, they need dopamine. It feels good, it feels good. But the problem is, dopamine does not shut down the stress response. Remember where we started today? Dopamine, you know, we've got this adrenaline is pumping. Dopamine doesn't do anything for that. So the question then is, how do we shut down the stress response? Well, we've already answered that. We do it with oxytocin. When my kid comes home, plenty of the story that I told you a couple of minutes ago when my 21 year old came home, but whatever their age, when it came when our kids are overstressed. They need more than anything. Us, they need us to help them become calm. Now there are other ways they can get oxytocin and get oxytocin from music, from reading from cooking from art. There's all these being in nature, all of these things have been shown to trigger oxytocin. These are all really important habits to cultivate. But number one is us. We are the primary trigger of oxytocin in our kids. So if I see my kid come home, and he makes a beeline to go play a game that I know, is going to make him even more stressed. Right? Because I'm gonna always ask him why and why now? I'm asking myself now, okay. My kids had a real stressful day. So school is very stressful for our kids, for lots of reasons, right? They have to sit still, they're surrounded by kids. It's a stressful time it stresses and if they come home, and they're in that stress state, and I learned how to recognize the stresses, by the way, I'm still answering your question for a couple of minutes ago, how are we going to break this cycle? And I see that they're overstressed. So now what I'm going to do is to turn off the stress response. That's step three of this process. So I'm going to figure out what are the things that I can do with my kid? Is it take a walk is to do some cooking? Is it? Is it just chatting? Whatever it is, somehow, with my kids, when they were young, I used to have that whisk that you know, you put on the head, that wouldn't calm them down right away.
Dawn Davenport 30:29
For one of mine, it was a warm bath with by himself with bubbles and toys.
Unknown Speaker 30:36
I did that one too, that I love it, especially when they were young.
Dawn Davenport 30:39
Yes. And I'd put a snack sitting beside the tub, and just, you know, set up the baby monitor so that I would know he was okay. And when 30 minutes, he would be looking like a prune. But it really it was it worked phenomenally for him.
Speaker 2 30:56
Okay, so there, Don just defined step three, which is reducing the stress response.
Dawn Davenport 31:03
I want to thank a very long time supporter of this show, and that is children's connection, Inc. Children's connection, Inc is a adoption agency, as well as a child welfare agency in Texas, and they place children for domestic adoption, and they do home studies for all types of adoption. And the home studies are done in Texas, the placing of children for adoption is done throughout the US, they also have a lot of other services that they provide to families in Texas to help stabilize and support families. Thank you so much for your long, long support of this show. Let me stop here and just remind everybody, step one for managing stress is reframing the behavior. Understanding the difference between a kid being bad misbehaving and a stress behavior and noticing that, so reframing it in your head, the why and why now, the second one is recognizing stressors and there's some obvious ones we know, hunger, thirst, too much noise too much, you know, a chaotic environment, or having somebody say something mean to them are not being able to do you know, not being able to stack the Legos the way they want. Those are all good ones. But then there are some hidden ones that you don't think of because the stress event, or the the impact of it is is delayed. And that can be food, it could be video games, it could be any other, just any other. It's probably some emotional ones, too, that that come out. And then the third one is what we're talking about now is how do we reduce the stress? Go ahead. Now now you can talk about the third one.
Speaker 2 32:45
No, you well, you just did a great job. So the third one is what we've been talking about. And we're going to do it that you know, Don's bath, that's great one, you're so what we're reducing here, we're gonna not just reduce like, you know, have it nice and quiet. We want that bathroom to be, you know, that soothing environment. I love the bubbles, which is giving that kid you know, the soothing tactile sensations. But what we're really trying to do is stop the adrenaline reduce the stress response. So that step for our kid feels calm. Now. Calmness is a very interesting thing. We have a generation, not just children, not just teens, all ages, but we have a generation of kids who don't know what calmness is. Don't know what calmness feels like calmness is different from being quiet. When a child is calm, they get a nother neurochemical, called an endorphin. We get endorphins from all kinds of things. We get endorphins from exercise, we get endorphins from food, we get endorphins from being hooked. Or I had to be very careful because my of my two boys my younger one didn't really like hugs was tactile sensitive. But with him, it was just a case of being close, quiet. My Presence. That's what he wanted not touch, per se. So we figure out and with my older one, I had to figure out what kind of touch he liked to be scratched. He was a scratch kid so I would scratch away. Okay. The point is that we want our child to experience calm, endorphins and know be aware.
Dawn Davenport 34:46
Yeah, that's the and that's the interesting part. It's not that when they calm down, but the thing that I thought was interesting reading this was it's their awareness of what that feels like. Yes. How do we help them become aware though, so your child If you're you hug your child or you scratch them, you put them in the bathtub, or whatever, how do we help them recognize the difference between how they're feeling before they got in the bathtub, and soaked and played and was quiet for a while, and when they got out? So,
Speaker 2 35:17
bear in mind that, you know, we're doing this you mentioned, you know, these are your kids were young when you were doing this. So a little kid has a very limited ability to process words, even the word you know, like a calm, we know what it means. But why would a three year old know what that means? But there are ways of, of explaining this to a child at a level that they can process. So for example, with the kids in clinic, we would use our therapists were working on exactly this, and they would use two dolls. And they had a Buzz Lightyear doll, and a Raggedy Ann doll. And they would say to them, Do you feel like buzz all stiff and and then do some they would do some massage or whatever they were doing and then said, Do you feel like raggedy and yet, and sometimes they would take pasta, and they would have cooked pasta and uncooked pasta up at but the point was to give them associations that they could resonate with at their level, whatever. And we found that we could get three rural children on the spectrum, to know what calmness felt like. And to know that the first three steps had been an I've just done, or the steps they had to do to get to call them to get to step four. So what we to break a cycle, you don't break a cycle today, you don't say, Well, you know, I heard this great lecture was all about self regulation. So I'm going to, I'm going to Oh, my goodness, it didn't work, everything. So this takes time. And we do it. Okay, so this another, I spent too many years working in South America, so forgive me, but we do it palazzina Monthly, slowly, step by step. And what happens is to break a cycle, maybe it's going to take you months, bearing in mind that the child is constantly going to go through transitional stages, where they are exposed to a whole new set of stresses, the stresses of when they are six years old, the stresses of going to school for the first time, a whole new set of stresses, the stresses of when they graduate, when they transition from public school to middle school, or from middle school to high school, there are all or when they are here's one for every parent listening, when they go through puberty, that's a lot of fun for us.
Dawn Davenport 37:52
And for that, and it's equally not as much fun for them. And there are things that are very fun about it. But there's, you know, think back to your own adolescence, and you can remember that just not understanding, you know, not understanding both the physical things that are happening, but also the emotional, the emotional. And
Speaker 2 38:09
so we know that we know that they are going to go through periods of suddenly intensified stress, and it's not unusual to see them regress to early your behavior patterns when this happens. So we realize to change a cycle, it may take a lifetime. But okay, so I am still learning. And you know, I'm 70, and I'm still learning stuff about myself every day. But what's happening is what we find is that as they master these first four steps, we'll get to the fifth step more than second. When they have you'll notice that when they do become dysregulated. When they do have the sudden breakdown, they return to calm much more quickly. They can they can recalibrate fast, faster. So what's happening is the brain now the the channels that produce these endorphins, they're getting carved they, as you're doing this day after day, they're getting more and more of a direct pathway to endorphins. So this is not to say that if I do this, my kid is never going to be dysregulated. Again, it is to say two things first, that when they have these moments of dysregulation, they're going to know what to do. One of the wonderful thing about being aware of calm is because you're getting all these endorphins. It feels really good. It feels better than the dopamine fix, calmness. We all love that feeling, including, including a little guy. So that's the first point. The second point is, even when you think so, you know, we'd have we'd have we'd be working with parents and they'd say, you know, I've been doing this now it's three months. And, and we're not getting anywhere. But in fact you are. And you don't notice it. Because something Don said at the start, we get so anxious, when our kid is anxious. And there is a connection of brain to brain connection between them and us. It's called the inter brain, we don't just see that our child is upset, we feel that our child is upset, we have the same, the same neurons that are that are vibrating like crazy, my kids start to vibrate in me, I am in the same kind of state however, because I've learned how to how to do self Reg, for myself, I can take that deep breath, I can bring myself back down, I can lend my calm to my child calm gets called. And you will notice, you may think you haven't been making progress, but you have.
Dawn Davenport 41:19
I liked that calm begets calm. That's so true.
Speaker 2 41:23
Well, we go a step further. So calm begets calm and stress, we get stressed. And what that means is that we have that my kid, you know, I mentioned that little part of the brain that deals with stress, and it releases a chemical called Particle Tropen releasing factor. And when my kids brain releases that, I get a shot of CRF I get a shot of the same stress hormone. However, because I've I've studied self rake, and I've learned if it's benefit, I can turn it off instantly. And now I can turn off my kids calm, my kids distress, I can turn off my kids CRF
Dawn Davenport 42:05
what are some techniques you use to reduce your stress, you recognize it first, recognizing that you are getting hyped up in stress, and that stress begets stress. I like that. How do you reduce your stress load?
Speaker 2 42:19
There's a story in that 2016 book you mentioned called self reg. It's a great story. So we had a mom come see us. And so she had a wonderful relationship with her child with her daughter until her daughter hit puberty. Now, this kid had been a real active gymnast. And she was good. And when she hit puberty, she stopped gymnastics cold turkey. Now, the gymnastics had been very regulating for her. Remember, exercise produces endorphins. So why did she quit? Well, because she'd gotten teased. she'd gotten teased by the non gymnastic girls for having for having big muscles. And anyways, became self conscious all that stuff. The problem was by stopping cold turkey she had, she had stopped what had been her primary form of self regulating, right as a child, your child. And the two of them started to have these nightly fights, and they had never fought. And the fights would go on for hours. And it would end up and it was every night and it would end up with the kids screaming I hate you. I never want to see you again.
Dawn Davenport 43:40
You're the worst mother in the world. If my my real mother would love me more would let me do this. Yep, yep.
Speaker 2 43:47
And that and trust me, I've had that one. And that one goes that one. You know, it goes right to the heart. Okay, so we said to mom, okay, now what we want you to do. So this was a mom who as it happens, what did yoga every day. So he said, Okay, so what we want you to do, we don't want to go into this cycle at all. So the next time it happens, what we want you to do is just take a moment, the fights are always happening in the kid's bedroom. So go out into the hall, do some deep breathing. Calm yourself down. Okay. The kid had asked all the girls were wearing pink hoodies. So the kid had asked mom if she could pick up a pink hoodie. Mum had gone at her lunch hour during work out they were all the pink hoodies they only had gray ones left. Someone bought the gray one
Dawn Davenport 44:37
NATO mistake, I could have made a mistake, rookie rookie mistake.
Speaker 2 44:43
Okay, so, so there's an explosion that night. And then Mom gets really upset because she given up her lunch, you know, but the doctor said I'm not allowed to. Okay. The doctor said I can't say anything. So she goes out into the hall and she does her deep breathing calms herself down and comes back into the room. And she turns off the light because, you know, what we want to do is reduce stresses that we can lay this this stress, the kid is lying hunched up on her bed. Now, what we want to do is we want to trigger the oxytocin in the kid, just like I did with my son, you can't pull off the trick about, you know, well, I had a hard day, can I have a hug, and you're not gonna get it if you ask for it. And one of the problems that you have when your child, so here we're dealing with a 13 year old, but when they when they've gone into this state, the part of the brain that processes language is really constricted. So if you ask them things they can't answer. They're not processing what you're saying. And what we want to do is we want to, we want to establish physical contact, we want permission to stroke her arm. This was a given like being stroked. But if there's no language, how do you communicate with your child when they're overwrought? And so one of the things we've learned is, the language gets all bottled up. But nonverbal communication doesn't right brain stays online. So you say to your kid, so in this case, she said to the kid, would you like, Would you like me to massage? Now you can say to the kid, raise your finger if you'd like that, or the best one is if you put your finger inside their hand, and say, Would you like me to massage your shoulders, squeeze my finger. And that's what she did. And so she gets the little squeezed back,
Dawn Davenport 46:44
probably with a Harrumph just because why not? You're dealing with a teen her.
Speaker 2 46:50
But But now think for a second, right? You've, you've just established physical contact, which is what you want. And you've been given permission. So she starts to, she starts to rub and scratch. And there are certain parts of the body that are safe, and you learn which they are. But basically, the forearm is safe and shoulder safe. And she can feel as I described with my son, she can feel that muscles relaxing. And the doctor had said to her, you're not allowed to say anything, keep your mouth shut. If you have to say something, the only thing you're allowed to say is I love you. We really want this to be a brain to brain connection. Okay, so she's doing this, and the kid starts to melt on the bed. And after 15 minutes, the kids renewed go to sleep. And she says, the last thing she says is, I love you, mummy. That's pretty significant. Because what's happened in this child is she has regressed to infancy. She has been in a state, she's overstressed and she needs her mommy. Without feeling that you're not being you know, a teen or whatever. She needs her mommy, to turn off the stress to make her feel safe and secure as she had when she was baby. Okay, so mum leaves the room and she's and the kids ready to sleep now. And there's been no fight and mums thinking. Now mum feels awful. You know, you know, I was so overwrought because I had done something nice, but I'm gonna tell my kid, first thing after school, I'll pick you up at school. And we'll go to the we have an outlet in a neighboring city. And we'll go and we'll find a pink hoodie. And the kid comes downstairs smiling, wearing the grey hoodie. So it wasn't it and what it was. And so we can jump to the conclusion that we can jump to the conclusion because there's an obvious stress, you know, the stress of the of the girls making fun of her. But there's an awful lot of stresses that our kids are going through. They're a little bit hypersensitive to sound. They're hypersensitive to you know, there's more kids when they move into middle school. There's a lot of stress and physical stresses and it lowers their threshold for dealing with emotional stress when they are over stress. So Don gave you the example at the start. Are you hungry? Are you all of those things? If my child is already overstressed they can't handle this stress of the of the other girls. We all know what this feels like. There are days when there's nothing I love more than listening to rock music reminds me of when I was like Kid I listened to three dog night and um, you know, but there are times when I am overstressed when I want to listen to Sati, I want subtler blur or something soothing. So, and the thought of putting you on, you know, so we all know that our internal state determines how much stress I can cope with at any time. Sure. Okay, so when we're, what we're doing with our children, is your kids, because of what they've gone through. Your kids are easily overstressed. So we learn to recognize the signs of when they're over stress. And what we find is the second I, I do this second, I say to myself, why why now, the second I begin to reframe, my stress comes way down. Instead of instead of having that angry response, or that fear response Don described, instead, now I become a detective. I know it's a stress behavior. And as I go through this, I become calm, I can go back into the room, and my touch will convey through my fingertips that I am calling.
Dawn Davenport 51:16
Yeah, that makes such good sense. I want to tell you guys about a new resource from creating a family. It's actually not a new resource. We've had it for about two years. But I haven't told you about it on the show. And I want to it is an interactive training support group curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families. We have a library of 23 curriculum on topics that are directly relevant to parenting your children, if you are a foster adoptive or kinship family. In this it's turnkey resource. There's a video there's a facilitator guide, there's a handout as additional resources, you get credit for your continuing education credit, if you're a foster parent, it is a terrific resource. And you can find it on our website, creating a family.org under the horizontal menu training. Let me pause here and restate the we're talking about a five step method for managing stress. And we've talked about it for our children. But it's important to think about it with it for ourselves to the first step is reframing the behavior by learning the difference between and the size between misbehavior and stress behavior. That's the why and why now, the second one is recognizing the stressors. There's the the typical stressors that are easy to see. But there are also some HIDDEN stressors that we've talked about that either we don't see because they're happening not in front of us, or they're the response is delayed. The third step is looking for ways to reduce stress. And we've talked about some but I'll throw out a few others. We talked about the bath we talked about touch a bit deep breathing is a great one. And there's that technique, there's a technique that we can use with children. I like it's the pizza breath, you put your hands out, as if you're reaching for a piece of pizza, and it's in your hands, and you bring it to your nose and you smell deeply. And then you that pizza is hot. So you're blowing out, it'd be purse, your lips, and you blow out to cool the pizza off. And kids love that. It's a it's a fun thing. Exercise, you've mentioned touching mentioned music, you know, and another one, if you have pets, the cuddling with a pet, or throwing a ball with the pet or stroking a pet. And there's so many others. So that's the third step looking for ways and it would be specific to your child. Because you mentioned some children or not, we'd rather be scratched than then then rubbed or massaged or whatever. They're just different forms of touch. And then the fourth point is reflect on what it feels like to be calm. We want our kids to recognize the feeling of calmness, because they may not and obviously we may not so we need to recognize in ourselves that the when I'm getting revved up, you know, that's I can feel that. But when I'm calming down, I need to feel that and you mentioned the dolls, which is a great one the spaghetti I happen to love. But you can also just act out the difference, you know, you know, scratch your face and your arms, and then and then just kind of act like a rag doll. Yeah. So the fifth one, what would be the fifth and the final of these five steps.
Speaker 2 54:33
The last step is restoration. So restoration means you're restoring energy. You're restoring balance, you're restoring connection with your parents, you're restoring your positive mood. What we find with our kids is they only partially restore. So you can go to sleep look all of us can do this. We can go to sleep thinking you know I'll get a good day hours, and I'll be restored and you wake up in the morning and you're not have that calm restorative sleep, our kids have a lot of trouble fully restoring. And so what we have to do is we have to plan these activities. So I would do things like with my loved one with a loved one with the pets, I have a chicken farm. And when my younger boy got upset, we always knew where he'd be, he'd be in the chicken coop holding one of the chickens and stroking the chicken.
Dawn Davenport 55:33
Interesting. Yeah, I never think it's enjoying that. But I guess the point whether they enjoyed it or not, it worked for him. So
Speaker 2 55:40
but the reason I mentioned it is we had a very interesting way of helping them to restore, it would have to be a day, usually on the weekend with nothing. And what we're gonna do is we spend the day doing chores, and one of the most restorative things I could do with my kids, believe it or not, was cleaning up the chicken coop, I had to make it fun. I had to be there with them, I had to clean the damn coop. But bear in mind that I you know, I read the news about your, your your country, and you guys are having a lot of trouble restoring these days. We true that we all Yeah, if we are only partially restored, we are much more susceptible to having a stress response. So we're going to learn what the signs of full restoration are, and how we're gonna do it.
Dawn Davenport 56:31
Okay, so what are the and I'm so appreciative that you also not just energy imbalance, but you talked about relationship, restoring the relationship. When the daughter in the story you gave said I love the mommy, exactly. She was restoring the relationship with my kids, sometimes something that if things were just falling apart, and we were in the car, sometimes and after, if there had been time we usually I had music, putting your head music going, that help us all calm down, I could reach my hand back in the backseat and just rested on there. Like I just love it. And very often my child within our one of my children would then reach out and just touch my hand. And that was we were saying without words. Okay, they the the bad thing was over. And so and then honestly, usually it was over at that point. We were just I forgive you. You forgive me. It was just a touch. You got to come work with us. Yeah. That's just perfect. So we were talking about restoration. Yeah. How do you know,
Speaker 2 57:37
you know what parents can tell in their voice, you can tell just by the sound of their voice, you can tell by the look on their face by the color of their skin. But there's a real, there's a real simple one. And that is that your kid come down in the morning and smile. You know, right away, right? Yeah, it's a good that we haven't restored. And so we're going to, we're going to do something a little different. Today, we're going to break the mold, whatever it is, I've tried to get my kid to restore. And when they restore, what happens is there's a neat little brain mechanism that I talked a lot about in the last book, it gets it gets into balance. And it is like a furnace that you set at 70 degrees, and it stays at that temperature our kids, they're going down to 60 Aptos, up to eight. And and so when they are restored, it sticks at 70. And we get all the signs from them. So you know what's going to restore your kid. Well, every kid is different. So from a younger boy, it was soccer for my older boy, it was hockey. Everyone has to discover what brings those smiles and that's telling me when the furnace is operating properly.
Dawn Davenport 59:00
Yeah, that makes sense. With one of mine who had a hair, she would go from zero to 60 in one second, and it would overwhelm me and it would frustrate me and it would scare me and that's it that's that's a real good one. Yeah, and when we parted we were certainly had not sought restoration at that point. But I would always try not always do but I always thought about it or try wanted to do it. But to before the lights were turned out, just to stick my head in and say something like I love you know, whatever, or and sometimes owning saying, I'm sorry for my part of it. I have to bite my part of it to say I'm sorry that I responded the way I did. And what I found as she got older is that she was equally it probably was by the time she was 18 It was almost 5050 Which one of us would come to the other ones room first. You to say I love you. And sorry, I got so hot and you know, that type of thing. So there are ways of seeking restoration. It's just wonderful. One of the things you say that I think is so important to say that these steps we've talked about reframing the behavior to recognize that it's not misbehave, this is not a bad kid. This is a kid stress kid, recognizing the stressors, including the HIDDEN stressors, and teaching your child and yourself ways to reduce the stress, teaching your child what it feels like to be calm. And then the fifth one seeking restoration. These steps are not a program as much for managing a child's behavior, but for understanding a child's behavior. And I think that I think that's key. I think that understanding that, yeah, the child's behavior may improve, but it's because you're understanding their behavior that's helping the improvement. Seriously, that's
Speaker 2 1:00:53
in one sentence. You just summed up everything. Oh, my life's work.
Dawn Davenport 1:00:58
Well, thank you so much, Dr. Stuart Shanker. I highly recommend your books. And I am thankful that you were here for us today and shared your wisdom. Thank you so much.
Unknown Speaker 1:01:09
You're welcome. Keep up the great work.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai