Well, it's almost a month since we saw the Theraplay Therapist Dave, who gave us his appraisal and feedback from our videoed session.
He felt that it wasn't appropriate for us to start Theraplay yet, that Mini wouldn't be ready for it, and that we needed to work more on attunement first.
So for the last 3 and a bit weeks, that's what we've been trying to do.
Dave suggested a technique that I've learnt about before (indeed via Dave on a Theraplay course), but it was relatively new to the NC (bar me rabbiting on at the time of my course!) - Matching. I talked a bit about the technique here...
It's been hard. Harder probably for the NC than me as he feels less confident; hasn't learnt as much as I have. He's also (I think) more led by the way he was parented - we all are naturally, but I've tried really really hard to set my own ways, rather than go back to my mothers. (Not that there was anything wrong with the way I was parented, it just needs to be different for Mini...) But we're getting there, and today was a perfect example of how with us working together and using matching we can bring Mini back into a safe, loving, reassuring, supportive place, rather than the scary place he goes to in his head when he's upset. It was - excusing the pun - Match of the Day!
I won't go into the details, but suffice to say that when Mini was being naughty, and then aggressive and angry when he was asked to stop what he was doing, he got very animated. So I did too, the NC cottoned on, and by matching and mirroring his body movements, we managed to spin the situation into a dancing-type game and got him laughing. We weren't aggressive, but moved more and spoke quickly, matching his high-pitched tone. We slowed it down and after a short time, he was calm, and happy. I was then able to empathise with his frustration at being asked to stop his original behaviour, and offer hugs. He then asked to continue playing the game, which we did but a bit more low-key.
I've had quite a lot of success with this, and although it hasn't stopped the meltdowns altogether, it has made them *much* shorter - we're talking ten minutes instead of an hour.
So it's going well. We still have a long way to go, and as meltdowns become shorter and less frequent, other issues become more difficult to handle - competitiveness particularly, although this doesn't surprise us and hopefully will become easier when we do some work with Mini and Dollop on differences. But at the moment Mini cannot comprehend and cannot remember that the things that Dollop gets now (i.e time with me, trips to soft play, craft time in the day) are all things that he also had when he was younger. This upsets him hugely and results in 'but that's so unfair' strops often.
For now, I have to be careful to make sure that they both have the same amount of colouring pencils/peas/beans/raisins/toys/presents/kisses/toothpaste, or Mini must have more because he's older. It's wearing.
I'm not pinning all my hopes on Dave and his techniques - I've been there before, tried so many different styles and techniques; things work for a while but then lose their effectiveness. However, I have to have some faith in this man, else I'd have nothing to focus on, and we're seeing him again soon so let's hope he helps us move forward further...