NOTE: names have been changed to protect privacy.
She threw her pink butterfly backpack across the row, as she climbed into the car, and huffed while digging her heels into the seat in front of her. Her foster dad, Bryan, had started to drive home but before they’d even reached the first stop sign, Eliza was unclipping her seat belt — whaling, screaming, and lunging her body towards the front seat as tears streamed down her face.
What was usually a tranquil fifteen minute drive home filled with tales of what happened that day at school became a thundering thirty minute drive with stops every hundred feet because Bryan felt too unsafe to drive.
After the fourth stop, this increasingly confused and frustrated father gave up on his fruitless efforts to end the tantrum. He put his head down and drove with a single, clear focus ---- to get home.
Finally, they pulled into the driveway, and with fists balled up and in the air, Eliza shouted “I NEED TO GO DO MY FEELINGS” in a high-pitched, deafening voice. She marched to the family’s Calming Corner at the top of the stairs and began to talk through her feelings as dad listened on from the bottom of the steps.
When Eliza was feeling calm, she asked her dad to join her in the family’s calming space, and they had a much needed chat. The young girl explained, pointing to the blue square with the sad face on her feeling’s poster, “I’m sad because I thought mom was picking me up today.”
Bryan was surprised to learn that the change in drivers had been behind the outburst. On that long, stressful drive home, all that he had been able to see was a hysterical child that he struggled to understand.
With his daughter now calm, Bryan took the opportunity to explain how he too had been feeling.
Sitting knee to knee in their Calming Corner, Bryan shared how confused, concerned, and mostly worried he’d felt that long drive home. He had been feeling both confused and concerned for his upset daughter and then the worry had to do with wanting to make it home safely, as his daughter had unbuckled her seatbelt.
This simple conversion gave way to clarity and connection. Both father and daughter listened, and in the end, both apologized. Ten minutes later, the two were hugging, laughing, and playing together.
Eliza is one of five foster children in the Bingham family. There’s Isabel (7), Eliza (5), Brant (3), Zach (19 months), and Sarah (9 months). This family living in York, Pennsylvania is loved and nurtured by mama Andrea Bingham - a behavioral analyst for fifteen years and a longstanding Generation Mindful (GENM) community member.
Eliza’s mom shared with us that all five children come from the same biological mother with histories of trauma and unique triggers that can cause frequent, hour-long meltdowns. But, despite what some might call “work” or challenges, Eliza says she has never looked back, feeling called by God to foster parent.
As a professional who has worked primarily with non-verbal patients, Andrea brought skills in understanding children with speech challenges into her foster parenting, but when Eliza came to live with her, even she could not understand the child for about the first four months due to a severe speech delay.
During Eliza’s tantrums, Andrea would have to hold her down physically to prevent self-harming scratches. Since then, Eliza has started working with the Time-In ToolKit and has come a long way. She can now articulate her feelings and tell her mom and dad when she is upset.
Andrea mentioned that her daughter Eliza is now entering a stage where she not only knows her triggers and can name them, but she is also no longer ashamed to ask for help.
“At school one day, the classroom was noisier than usual, which typically causes Eliza to feel flustered. But on this day, instead of throwing chairs like she normally would, Eliza went to her teacher and asked for help to calm her body.”
Andrea shared that the preschool teacher was so stunned she called home to share the break through and to ask Eliza’s mom about the transformation, which Andrea credited to their Calming Corner, SnuggleBuddies, etc.
When her kids were in therapy and working through Trust Based Relational Intervention, Andrea was witnessing meltdowns of kicking walls, pushing chairs, and throwing plates from all five kids, daily.
Andrea felt she needed a system to support her kids when they were experiencing overwhelming emotions, which led her to Generation Mindful.
“There is nothing out there to teach these kids how to regulate their emotions,” stated Andrea when we had the opportunity to catch up over the phone. “The foster family crisis line serves its purpose,” she went on to say, “but our GENM tools are in the trenches with us as well, day in and day out.”
At Generation Mindful, we are grateful to foster parents around the world who strive to ensure all children grow up feeling safe, powerful, and connected. We see you, and we want to be of support to you.
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