If I had a bucket filled with all the worry holes my children chewed from sweaters, shirttails, jackets, and cuffs, I would be rich in bits and pieces of a king-sized quilt, for sure. Internal turmoil is the name of the living game for our traumatized, attachment challenged children–not to downplay the pull of oral sensory stimulation needs. They are frightened babies in bigger bodies sucking on clothing for comfort when their anxiety inches up and they cannot contain it to the inside. At one time, there was probably a thumb involved: ever ready to comfort and reduce their baby distresses. At some point the shame of sucking on a thumb causes an object shift–from thumb to clothing–which is much more socially acceptable for older children.
If you are anything like me and a zillion other parents, you first think about the amount of money you keep throwing into the garbage heap in the form of chewed through clothing. I should just let you walk around looking ratty like that; but you don’t because that is not a humiliation-free natural consequence despite how natural it seems. Then you might begin to feel your frustration and ire, thinking, Why won’t she stop already? She is 10-years-old, after all, and I am not made of money. She doesn’t care about anything.
That leap in parental logic is the result of an unconscious thinking/feeling spiral. The more likely fact of the matter is that your child cares too much, not too little. She isn’t, however, focused on caring about clothing when she is over focused on habitually surviving her internal anxiety.
A therapeutic parent must address the worry, not the holes. Upon seeing the circle chewed in the shirt you bought last week, you would breathe yourself into compassion for the anxious child you love before saying, You must have had a difficult day today sweetheart. I see you have a worry circle (hole) in your sleeve. Let me give you a big hug.
You might also want to find a replacement chewy for your child. You can buy a chewable necklace online or give a square of fabric with a splash of lavender, sweet orange oil, or vanilla scent. Better yet, give an old fashioned handkerchief with your favorite perfume or aftershave spritzed on it. Your scent will add an extra soothing quality. You are the best soother in your child’s life, so give a little sensory something to remind that you are always somewhere loving your child when s/he is anxious and away from home (or in the next room, for that matter).
This is one of the best attachment and trauma conferences in the U.S. If you have never been, consider a trip to St. Louis in September 2016. For more information, click here.
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The next 8-hr. Attachment- and Trauma-informed Therapeutic Parenting Workshop is specially scheduled for one day–July 23rd–from 9am to 5pm. We usually hold the training on two days, but this is an exception for those who cannot find time on two consecutive Saturdays to attend a training. To register, go to https://www.attachplace.com/shop. Childcare provided for an additional fee. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.