As I said in my last post, after finishing the 12 week Incredible Years programme, life was a little calmer in our household and I felt like I had better control of everything. One of the facilitators worked with our family and he came weekly to reiterate the course topics and apply them to the issues I had.
By now, we had been walking the ASD journey for a couple of years. My other half had moved past denial and anger in what we saw in our child, and we were learning to preempt behaviour, and manage problems as they came up. As months went by, we helped our son manage the world around him and so home life was a little calmer… in that respect. As we turned away to catch our breath, we saw that our daughter was displaying signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Her behvaiour ramped up and we were sat on our butts once again, overwhelmed with helplessness.
As I self-referred our family back to our child mental health service, I pondered doing the course again. Once again, we had a new baby, but that didn’t bother me. I knew that to get the best results, my other half and I had to be parenting together. I sat down beside him and practically begged him to come. I actually said, “honey, please. I am begging you to consider doing this with me so we can become better parents together.” I then had to walk away and let him think, crossing my fingers and toes that he would make it happen.
I wanted to do the course again because I knew it worked. I knew that reporting back to the class every week held you accountable to yourself, and I knew how valuable the input and discussions from others could be. I knew this. What I didn’t know was whether I would get any more from the course, or whether my other half could do it with me.
He did. He sweet-talked the boss, because taking 3 hours a week for 16 weeks is a huge commitment. We rearranged childcare, got organised, and trooped to the first day, now in a different venue on the ground floor 😛
The circle of chairs was large, there were 16 on this course. There were 3 other dads on the course, and we were the only couple. I knew some of the other mums, though not well. Once again, we had to establish a trust and a rapport in the group, so week 1 and 2 were awkward again.
By week 4 we were well into it. While I had waited for the numbers to drop of like they had last time, this time our group stayed huge the whole way through. The dynamics were different with large numbers compared to when I had done the course first time with a small group. This time, we bantered thoughts and chucked around solutions more, there was a greater input of different ideas. Sometimes we had to ‘agree to disagree’ as we got heated and passionate. It was brilliant!!!!!!!
The facilitators started each class with the topic of the day, we watched vignettes (still the same dated videos!) and we did some practice/role play. And then we talked, and talked and talked some more. They truely earned the title of facilitator because they both facilitated discussion so it was helpful and on task.
Each of us bought in new issues from our children, but we all understood the challenge each other was going through. Sometimes it was enough to collapse on a chair at 9.25am and take a deep breath, knowing you were in a safe place and the people around you would understand how hard it was to get your child into the car this morning.
I haven’t gone into too much detail of what is actually taught in the class. I’m not sure what I can cover with copyright etc, and also I don’t want to ruin it if you decide to take the course!
I can tell you that it is all based on a loving and respectful relationship with your child. It is about talking to your child like another person, using words to get what you want/need – not hitting or shouting. It is about teaching your child the life skills of emotional regulation, empathy, and problem solving.
Having done the course before, I knew some of the content. We still practiced some of the techniques every day at home. Yet it had been 3 years since I had done it previously so there was a lot to be refreshed!!! This time, the course was 16 weeks. This pace, though an additional month – was preferable, as there was more time to go into the topics and apply them to home life.
The change at home this time was gradual, but it did happen. Even better was that we were parenting together, backing each other up, supporting the other. Each time one of us slipped, the other was there. It made it all worth it.
The people in the group were amazing. We had children ranging a huge age gap (eldest child was in 20’s, youngest was our babe attending) with the ‘children in question’ (why we were on course) aged about 7-16. Every week my respect for these mums and dads deepened, every week I was reminded why it was so important not to judge others.
During the course, we had an event in our family that tested us, us as a couple, us as a family. Huge. We rode through it and I was thankful it was the school holidays. During the school holidays, IYP takes a break too, so when we resumed back to course in the first week of school, it was news to our classmates. It was then that I realised how awesome our kids had been through that rocky period, that our new skills had ensured that we had survived. Grief is one of the biggest upheavals there is, and here we were as a family, stronger than ever.
I did role play with a woman I had known for many years. We both have strong personalities and I admire her for the way she deals with the challenges her children throw at her. She knew how to rankle me though (and I say this in a good way!). We were practicing the ‘ignore’ technique, which is extremely powerful when done right. It is very very easy to get this one wrong though, and it hadn’t worked in our house because I wasn’t doing it properly. So I volunteered to practice. Wow. This woman goaded me in the same way my children do, pulling from me many feelings and throwing me into a place I didn’t want to be. The class helped me through that, using various skills we had learnt, and techniques of support. The following week we practiced again and I was thrilled when I nailed it, despite her best efforts to drag me back.
The group watched my baby progress from sleep/feed at week one, to crawling at week 16. He knew the familiar faces and charmed everyone!
By the end of the course, our group was comfortable and happy. It was sad to be finishing. I joked about us doing it again, and one of our facilitators told us they were about to start a new group. I was startled to realise that I wanted to be on it. Once again, IYP had calmed our home, but I knew how easy it was to slip into bad habits. I signed up to do it a 3rd time. One of my closest friends who had done the course twice before, also signed up. So last week, the two of us headed back to the room. We were looking forward to doing it together.
Once again, we sat with a group of strangers. More dads, more mums, more parents who just wanted to do their best. I am doing it again because I feel that continuing what I had done so far this year, will cement my good habits and make them permanent.
Maybe doing it two or three times isn’t for everyone, and I appreciate how fortunate I am in my position to be able to do it again. I know working parents will struggle to do just the once. For some people, evening classes are easier but I haven’t seen many of those around. I do know that it is absolutely worth it if you can make it happen. I think this course is so amazing, every single parent should do it once their child can walk :-).