I had the great honor of being a staff member at the April 23rd – 30th Turning Point Camp held at Lake Swan Camp in Melrose, Florida. The process of finding out about the camp was serendipitous starting with a webinar by Institute for Attachment, then being linked to Mark Brown, President, and Jennie Landreth, Vice President of Pathway for Healing, Inc. This is the first year Turning Point Camp was held in Florida, and I hope there will be many more camp opportunities.
My role, with the other wonderful staffers and Junior staffers, was to support parents as they practiced therapeutic parenting techniques learned from Jennie, drawing from the research-based curriculum she and Mark had put together over the last year. The course material was titled “An Introduction to Trauma Informed Parenting” and it guided the parents through a discovery process to help them understand how trauma affects a child’s brain, explaining that their child is responding to learned fear much of the time, and how all of this is what is behind the acting-out. The child literally cannot stop themselves as their brain causes them to react this way. Knowing that the children are under stress and that their past experiences have changed the way their brain reacts, the camp staff helped the parents learn first how to calm themselves and then to “check-in” with their children, after the child returned to a relaxed state. The parents were shown how to reconnect with their children in a loving manner after an angry episode, which helps to build a bond between parent and child and reduces anxiety. Instead of the parent meeting the child’s rage with their own anger, they learned to pull back, to “weather the storm” of the amygdala, waiting for the child to become better able to communicate in his/her relaxed state, allowing the cortex to engage, where conscious thought occurs including problem-solving, managing emotions, and managing behaviors. The repetitive, positive responses learned and practiced at camp, help to “re-wire” the child’s brain, leading to clearer thinking, a less reactive response to uncertainty and stress and the ability to respond more appropriately in social settings.
It was a thrill to see parents and their children communicating using new tools, and hearing from parents who found their experience valuable. Camp has ended, but the families are still able to communicate with Jennie, for six weeks after, through teleconference and a private online group.
My desire, going forward, is to share what I have learned with the families I work with, to link them to this fabulous resource, and help support Turning Point Camp returning to Florida. Parents you are not alone, please visit their website at http://pathwayforhealing.com/
All photos: Pathway for Healing 2016©. Photo credit: Show Me A Smile Photography