If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s this: the only way to make an impact on someone’s life is through relationship. There needs to be an established familiarity, respect, and trust in order to make change in someone’s life (hopefully mutually). I don’t want anybody telling me what to do unless I know they understand me and care for me. And no child is going to listen to someone unless they know them as a safe person they can trust. The other day I was out at a community event and one child made a huge mess of crayons on the floor. The parent wasn’t present so I tried to come alongside the child to get her to clean up. I had no success. This kid looked at me with eyebrows raised and scoffed. She didn’t know me and wasn’t used to being asked to clean up her messes so I couldn’t make any impact with her. Of course I couldn’t. I don’t know why I thought I could just swoop in, ask nicely, and get results. These changes take time.
It’s no different with behavioural assessments. That relationship piece felt like an extra step I did not have time for. Once I reached out for help, I was already desperate for change, like, not knowing how I’d get through the next hour desperate. But it takes a few sessions with whatever consultant, therapist, professional you are working with until the real work can begin. There is no magic trick to speed up this process or to wave away behavioural/emotional/psychological issues. If there were, everyone would know about it and the person who thought of it would be a bajillionaire. Maybe it’ll be me and I’ll be able to buy property and put my kids through college with the money I earn from my brilliant idea, but until then we have to do the hard work of establishing trust and respect. It can initially feel like a waste of time. If I take time out of my busy schedule to bring my challenging child(ren) on two busses to get to a professional’s office, I expect it to be worth my while. I think, ‘this person is educated, has worked in this field for x amount of years, is used to working with challenging kids, surely they will be able to look at my kid for 20 minutes and tell me right away what needs to happen. I’ll need to come here twice maybe three times.’ NOPE. The first clinic we went to we were there for 2 months before understanding how to help our son at all. I would go there every week or two, enter an office full of toys with my son and watch him play for 20 minutes while I talked about my week with a therapist. Then I would be instructed to play with my son, sometimes being given a prompt like “be curious with him”, then debrief the play session with the therapist. Afterwards we would leave and life at home would continue to be super hard. I didn’t understand how long it would take for the therapist to observe, establish trust, and know how to impact our son in positive ways. I was frankly too desperate to think about about the process at all. My mind was fogged with exhaustion. I just kept going in hope and trying to do the work to establish a calmer relationship with him and home environment for him. I just had to keep going and keep believing it would help and eventually it did. SHOWING UP HAS VALUE. And it can feel like the hardest thing to do. Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to get out the door with my 2 kids and I mean just putting on jackets and shoes, so leaving the house is an ordeal that doesn’t seem worthwhile at times. We kept going to that clinic for 1.5 years and by the end of our time there, I couldn’t imagine life without this supportive team of staff. We had come to trust and enjoy working with each other, even though I couldn’t see that outcome at first. Just by showing up there and doing the hard work of trusting each other we established a trusting relationship and had a mutual impact on each others lives.