The subconscious mind is a very funny thing, and really difficult sometimes. Even times when you least expect it. This is a very personal real, raw story of the day my 9-year-old daughter caused the school to go into lockdown. In reading this story, you will gain a better understanding of subconscious triggers that may be happening in your child and also ways to help your child through these times. Many will say that only children that have experienced trauma will experience these emotional triggers, and I am here to tell you that is NOT the case.
Yep, you read that right. My daughter caused the school to go into LOCKDOWN! My Sweet precious nine-year-old daughter. . .
As I walked out of Staples for a quick errand that morning, 8:26 am to be exact, I looked down at my phone to see a missed call from the school.
“Hmm, that’s odd. . . .” I thought, but deep down, I knew how the morning had started and that it probably wasn’t good.
Rewind to the morning: The beginning of the morning went fantastic. Everyone woke up a little late, but all in all, it was a great morning. That was… until we headed to school. My sweet little Desrye, 9 years old, had been struggling at school that week and she had a really rough day the day prior. Her consequence was to lose all screen time. Now, we have a movie screen in my Pilot and when you have four children – quite frankly, punishing one that way makes it very difficult for the others during a car ride.
That morning, to reinforce the consequence, I allowed the others to watch a show while we drove but sweet Des could not. This meant she had to look out the window and enjoy the drive…. as you can imagine, at nine-years-old that is not really enjoyable!
The closer we got to school, the more tense Desi became. I was driving so it was not the best time to be able to stop and have a conversation with her about what her heart was feeling. But I admit, I was pondering on what triggers were happening within her subconscious. As we pulled into the school, I prayed over their day with them and we went thru the motions of everyone getting out of the car.
Only there was one problem that was about to happen much to my surprise….
Now, let’s fast forward to the voicemail waiting for me on my phone when I left Staples that I was sharing about before.
As any mother would, I immediately called the school worried that maybe one of the kids was sick. Or maybe one of the boys forgot something and needed it. Never once did I expect to hear the words that came out of the principal’s mouth…
“Jamee, Desrye is being sent home for the day.”
I continued to listen. She definitely had my attention because this wasn’t your normal call from the school nurse. After all…. this WAS the Principal!
“For the last hour, we have been unable to find Desrye and had to shut the school down utilizing every staff member we could to locate her. We even had to have her brothers come help look for her. She has now been in my office for about ten minutes, in a ball, shut down and not communicating with us.”
Gasp, oh my heavens. My little girl!
What had happened?
What had she done?!
The Principal continued to share more of the story. She had been found in the locker room, hiding, once they pulled the security cameras. The very same locker room that staff and students had searched three times. (Yes, she’s very small for being 9 years old.) I could feel and hear the emotions that the Principal was feeling as she talked to me. I’m sure as anyone would naturally do when a child is lost… the thoughts of the unimaginable and the worst crossed her mind the entire time.
As she spoke to me, she began to cry. Not just any cry, a very real and hard cry – one filled with such love and care for this little girl of mine.
I reassured her that Desi was safe and that it was okay. I supported her decision to send her home. After all, good heavens, she DID cause the school to go into lockdown! I expressed to her that I could tell what she was feeling because after all, not only is she the Principal, but she is also a mother and a woman. Her heart was hurting, yet at the same time, probably feeling the release of knowing Desi was safe.
Listen very closely, Moms… I was upset with Desi.
I was angry and I wanted to yell! Loudly.
But I knew I couldn’t.
I knew I had to approach this differently.
Possibly more than anything to date as a Mom.
You see, Desi was placed into from foster care at the age of almost 2 years old. Then was shifted in and out of three different homes within a year prior to meeting my family. She moved into our home and has never left since.
This little girl has had a whirlwind of struggles in her first few years of life. Struggles that no child should ever have to experience. Subconscious triggers that neither she nor I can begin to grasp some days.
She was found wandering a trailer park, in only a diaper, during a snowstorm, at the age of 18 months old. ALONE. NO CLOTHES. SNOW STORM. And that’s just the short story! On top of that, she was so severely malnourished that she only weighed about 18 pounds!! It still infuriates me to this day – 18 months old and 18 pounds.
Desrye is full of subconscious triggers that are not apparent when you look at her. On the outside, she is a loving and extremely happy nine-year-old that loves to make others smile. On the inside is a much deeper, darker side full of hurts and rejection.
I had to handle this differently; not for me, but for her.
The situation that had transpired at school that morning was not one that could be handled in anger or with yelling. This was a time to approach this with love and curiosity. I had to get to the root of what happened inside her heart, and the only way to do this would be with questions and conversation. As hard as that would be, that’s what I had to do. . . somehow.
And this Momma had to have a plan.
A plan filled with love, understanding, and empathy. Yet, also one that allowed Desrye to understand the seriousness of what she had caused and ways to help her cope if these feelings should ever come up again.
'Inside each child's mind is an unknown world. We must look INSIDE the box, rather than just AT the box itself.' ~JameeMareeClick To Tweet
As a mom, sometimes things get tricky and complex when it comes to parenting and doing our best. It is important to remember that we simply do not and cannot possibly know every feeling, struggle, and worry that our children have. We never know what may trigger those subconscious thoughts to come to the surface. Heck, I admit… even as a grown woman, sometimes I don’t understand what may trigger ME. Do you feel me?
The only way to truly get even close to that is by communicating with our children. In my last post, I shared on that more. CHECK IT OUT HERE. This post today doesn’t just relate to children from foster care or adoption…. it is the same for ALL children!
But today, we are going even deeper….
We need to determine WHY your child is behaving this way, what may be triggering it and then work to solve a complex puzzle to help them understand what they are feeling. Sure it might be easier to just simply discipline them and move on, but is that the right way to nurture and love that sweet little bundle of joy that is your flesh and blood? Or is it just the easy way out?
Is yelling at them going to teach them that their feelings are wrong? Absolutely, but is that what you want to teach them? Imagine if you were hurting and someone just started yelling at you. . .
Is it possible that by changing the way we handle things, we could possibly allow and foster self-strength deep inside their hearts? Absolutely!
Trust me…. I have been in your shoes.
Heck, my 9-year-old just put the entire school on lockdown!
I completely understand what you are going through and the frustration you feel.
In teaching children since I was 18 (yes, 18…. that’s for another blog post), experiences as a foster mom and mother, I have learned ways to look at things inside those little hearts and minds that may not be “stereotypical” methods and I want to share them with you. You first have to identify the subconscious triggers and then work through to find solutions. Some may tell you that these things are only for children that have experienced trauma –
. . . and I am here to tell you that is just NOT THE CASE.
Before we get started, let’s first look at the definition of the word “trigger:”
The word trigger basically means in a psychological sense is just the same as if you were holding a trigger in your hand on any type of object. In a nutshell, it means one action that initiates or causes a chain of reactions. i.e. you put your keys into the ignition and turn, this triggers the motor to come on. This is no different from what a subconscious trigger is within our minds and hearts.
Now that we have a grasp on what a trigger is and the story of my very own daughter’s subconscious trigger, let’s look at how you can identify and help your child with their very own triggers that may occur.
Have the Resource Vault Password? I have a printable that I have made with these steps below just for you. Print this out, so that you can use this even when you are done reading this blog post.
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Ways to Identify Subconscious Triggered Behaviors in your Child
1. Identify the triggered behavior that you wish you focus on.
You want to start small and think baby steps, and not try to tackle each and every behavior that you do not like. The last thing you want to do is get into an all out war of behaviors with your child. Just PICK one! This will give you time to really focus in on what things you are seeing. Which behavior is the most intrusive to your day or to the families day?
2. Watch for patterns in your child’s behavior.
This may seem difficult when you first look at it, but it’s truly not. Pay attention to the time of day, the foods your child eats, the way the few hours prior to the behavior happening went, or the activities that they are doing at the time. Keep a notebook or use the printable that I created for you to take notes on these things.
For example with Desrye, she has always acted out horribly at school when it was time to get off the swings at school. Seems like no big deal, right? The problem was that it happened each and every time, and well… if you read the above story, then you know how those meltdowns went. 🙂 It took a great deal of time, and using this very process for me to figure out why this was happening and I’ll share more on this same story as we go through the process to help you visualize what you may be looking for.
3. Dig deep to understand the relationship between both the patterns and the behavior.
Once you have identified a specific behavior and worked to find the patterns in what is happening, you can now begin to really try to find and understand the relationship between the two. And remember, your child is unique and different. Their subconscious trigger may be something completely different and unexpected that is causing it to occur.
My example with Desrye: Each time she would that it would be time to get off the swings, she would have a horrible meltdown and would not want to leave the swings. Not just any meltdown, but a very loud and painful one. After some time, I realized that there had to be a reason that she was so attached to the swings that I was missing. It was always the only place she would play anytime she was outside. Once you hear why, it’ll break your heart. I’m sorry for that part.
You really need to look at your child’s “box” (AKA mind) on the inside, in every corner, every cobweb, every fold of the box, and seek out what may be hidden somewhere in there. Do not look “AT THE BOX” or you will never find your answers, promise.
4. Ask your child curious questions to identify the pain that is being felt.
I feel like I am on repeat in some of these posts, but truly – you have to communicate with your kiddos and see what is truly happening in their minds and hearts. This is a time for you to ask questions that show curiosity. Such as “I noticed that you didn’t want to leave the swings again today, I wonder what you may have been feeling at that time? Can you share with me what you felt?”
Now, I realize that when you are dealing with some of these power struggles, you may not be able to necessarily talk calmly. Take some deep breathes, let some time pass, and approach the conversation with a different mindset. After all, why would your child open their heart and feelings up to someone that is yelling or angry with them?
My example with Desrye: I simply began by sharing with her that I had noticed the struggle she was having and stayed curious with her as I shared with you at the beginning of this Step. I continued to ask more questions that allowed her to see that I was trying to understand. After a few moments, she began to share (unknowingly on her part that she was giving me the answer that I was looking for) that her “first foster dad used to take her to the park every day after school and they would swing.”
AH-HA, there’s the common thread that was needed!
You need to listen to the words that your child says, and not be listening for the answer you THINK you need. Children express themselves in various ways, and right now, you are playing detective.
5. Find ways to help them cope and understand their very real feelings.
You now have the behavior identified, the patterns, the pain (subconscious trigger) behind what is happening and why it is happening. The first thing you need to really do is empathize with your child and let them see that. It’s crazy what just a simple, “I understand how your feeling” or “It’s all going to be okay” will do for your child. (For adults as well, for that matter!)
Without proper coping skills and an understanding of what they are personally experiencing, they cannot change their behavior. They don’t know how! When you yell at them, it makes them feel as though their feelings are wrong – they aren’t. They are THEIR feelings. Allow them to open up more to you, and share with them ways that maybe they could’ve handled it differently. Again, go back to curious questions.
Example with Desrye: “I know that when it’s time to get off the swings that it’s hard. I absolutely understand that what you are feeling is real and hard. It reminds you of your first foster Dad and the fun you had with him. He loved you a lot, but he would also want you to make good choices. How do you supposed you could make a good choice when it is time to get off the swings?”
Talk to them, help guide their problem solving and understanding of what they are doing. You are their inner voice in tough times and in easy times. They hear you all day long, even while at school. Don’t you still hear your Mom’s words sometimes as an adult? Mold them, guide them, and love them through what they are feeling.
6. Reassure them that they are safe and loved.
Were there ever times as a child that you let your parents down? Maybe times as an adult that you let someone down? How important was it for you to know and feel that even though you made a mistake, that person loved you? CRITICAL here, ladies. . . It is okay to share with them that you are disappointed in their choice, but not with them as a person. They need to know that even as adults, we screw up too and when you can love them through it, they know that they are safe and loved.
Example with Desrye: “Honey, I know that it was tough to get off the swings, and I understand why. I am disappointed that you chose to throw a fit and deal with it that way. BUT. . . I know that you can make a better choice next time. Remind Mommy what it was that you were going to do again the next time you don’t want to get off the swings?”
By asking your child to remind you of what their plan was, this creates reinforcement and repetition in their minds. It also adds a cue to the brain that will help when they start to feel that behavior coming on. In the situation that I shared earlier about Desrye’s hiding, this is exactly what I did for days after the situation when I would drop her off at school.
7. Understand & empathize with the feelings that they are experiencing.
You have helped your child to find their understanding of the behaviors and what to do when this happens again, but have YOU been able to understand and empathize with what they are feeling? What seems small to us as adults is sometimes very large in the minds of our children. To help your child means that you need to also really sit and digest what they may be feeling. By doing this, you will also be able to handle the situation if it should arise again. And it probably will – changing behaviors and subconscious triggers takes time, patience, and work.
To help you better understand their inner mind, here is a story of how subconscious triggers work: The Pain Behind the Rage
Now it’s your turn. . .
What behaviors are you struggling with the most with your child? What ways have you handled them or how do you wish you handled them? Scroll down to the “Let’s Talk” box below and share, so other moms know they are not alone!
I know this post has been very deep, and very real. It is my hope that you can help your child today!
I am so proud of you!
So much Love,