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Radical Acceptance & Building Trusting Relationships with Kids – with Chrissie Davies

Exploring Neurodiversity Podcast – Episode 17

by Adina Levy

Play. Learn. Chat - Exploring Neurodiversity Podcast Logo

Show Notes:

In this episode I chat with the fabulous Chrissie Davies, from Chaos to Calm Consultancy and author of books including the wonderful ‘Love Me Love my ADHD’ and ‘Love your Brain’.

We discuss all kinds of big ideas around trauma-informed practice in schools, tips for families supporting neurodivergent children, practicing radical acceptance, and building trusting relationships with children.

Watch our interview as a video on YouTube if that’s your groove! https://youtu.be/OF6LG5Bqtv8Β  Β 

LINKS:
Chrissie’s website: https://www.chaostocalmconsultancy.com/Β 
Find Chrissie on IG: https://www.instagram.com/chrissiechaostocalm/Β 
Chrissie’s book ‘Love Me Love my ADHD’ – https://www.chaostocalmconsultancy.com/love-me-love-my-adhdΒ 
Chrissie’s book ‘Love your Brain’ – https://www.chaostocalmconsultancy.com/product/love-your-brainΒ 

 

 

 

Transcript:

Adina: Welcome to the Exploring Neurodiversity Podcast. I’m Adina Levy from Play Learn Chat. I’m a neurodivergent speech therapist. And I’m obsessed with creating a world where neurodiversity is understood, embraced, supported, and celebrated. Join me as we have conversations about autistic, ADHD, neurodivergent experiences, and I share how you can support neurodivergent children in your world.

Let’s all work together to make change where change is needed so that the world can be a more friendly place for neurodivergent people and for everyone.

Hello Chrissie! Welcome, welcome!

Chrissie: Good morning.

Adina: It is absolutely awesome to meet you and to share well, as we said a moment earlier, it doesn’t feel like it’s our first time meeting because we’re just kind of hang out online.

Chrissie: Absolutely. We have this amazing, small business community, don’t we, where we all cheer each other on. It’s awesome.

Adina: Absolutely. Absolutely. So for those who don’t know Chrissie, I’ll do a bit of an intro. Chrissie Davies, spreads positivity and knowledge, raising neurodivergent kids in a way that centers around unconditional regard and relational safety. I absolutely love those words and love that approach.

And there’s nothing Better I can imagine. She’s a sought after presenter, consultant, children’s book author, which is something we’re definitely going to be talking about today. Um, and her message is loud and clear kids do well when they’re surrounded by a community that believes in them, especially on their stormy days.

What a word.

Chrissie: Yes,

Adina: And she has a new book out, but there’s another book too. So she’s got, uh, Love Your Brain, which my daughter and I just read the other night and it was, it went down a treat. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful story of, the things that we can do to help our brains. And it’s so not just a message for kids.

My gosh, I needed to read it too. So thank you, Chrissie.

Chrissie: you are welcome. We’re going to talk about my top down approach as we go through this conversation. And I wrote Love Your Brain as a therapeutic tool to really just empower kids to help them understand, you know, because I feel like there’s this big You know, we talk a lot at children, and when you actually understand how children learn, they learn through doing, and feeling, and stuffing up, and getting things wrong, and you know, all those sorts of things.

And books are such a beautiful way, talking about relational safety, is there any better place to be sharing, and learning, and imparting incredible knowledge for children than in the safety of our arms and our lap? wrapped in love and support and unconditional safety, you know, while we’re trying to teach them something at the same time.

Adina: Absolutely. And it’s just these, the messages that you share cut through on all levels. So, you know, I’m reading it to my child and I’m also modeling it. And I’m also thinking, I need to do that. And then I’m speaking at a loud going, I think I need to do a little bit more of sleeping.

Chrissie: Absolutely.

Adina: just sparks those conversations and those reflections for grownups too.

It’s a brilliant book and your new book, Love Me, Love My ADHD is something we’ll talk about because I know at the time of recording, it’s freshly out and available and it is an extension of, I think your, approach and your joy and your reality as well. There’s a bit of reality in them.

Chrissie: Totally. Radical acceptance, baby. It’s, it’s like you said, it’s about him, you know, true radical acceptance and unconditional regard is about celebrating Our children and ourselves for all that we bring to the world , and individual differences are so important and, you know, when we actually live and breathe that ourselves and truly believe it, I just think it’s the biggest and most important gift we can give our children is that ability to accept themselves for who they are.

Yes, we all have flaws and yes, we all have strengths and positivities. And those are our unique qualities that we bring to the world.

Adina: It’s, yeah, what a message. Um, I’m going to take a total sidestep, Chrissie, but it comes back. I promise I bring it back here. Uh, are you familiar with the wonderful Whitney Houston song, The Greatest Love of All?

Chrissie: Yes, I am. I hope you’re not going to make me sing it.

Adina: No, no, we’re not doing a sing along. Um, if you really listen to the lyrics, I get really passionate about it.

It’s just the most powerful lyrics that come back to this whole idea, which is the greatest love of all is inside of me. And I will not sing it. No, you’re right. That’s not fair to everyone, but it’s absolutely powerful banger of a ballad. So I recommend everyone go hit that song up.

Um, but it really just pulls out this big idea, which is We can get love from the world around us, and of course we hope to be getting and giving love from those people around us, but the biggest thing I think we can give kids is that sense of having that love and that passion and that, that drive coming from inside of you. So thanks Whitney.

Chrissie: Yeah, and I’m a huge, a really big part of therapeutic parenting and educational philosophy centres around using music as a tool for regulation, calm, rhythm, you know, all that sort of things that we know. Brains love music and repetition and all those sorts of things which are part of, that, um, Vagus toning of you know, the vagus nerve and all that sort of stuff. So it’s a really big part of the philosophy that I use as well But music has been such a healer for me too on a personal level Um, and meditation and embracing using music as a regulation tool for yourself has been absolutely life changing for me since sort of coming to my own late identification as an ADHD woman.

and something that I’ve always known and used with kids and, you know, had done meditation and relaxation and, you know, we used to do so many music programs with kids and all that sort of stuff. But I don’t think I ever really fully understood the impact that it was having for them. Until I started using it for myself regularly and consistently,

Adina: I think this is going to be a message throughout our whole chat and along the whole way, which is just these strategies and these supports and these concepts are not just for kids. We’ve got to turn them back on ourselves to experience it, to live it and model it all of that. Do you want to share a bit about your journey to, you know, your identity

Chrissie: You know, 15 years in education, I was that teacher that just got the quirky kids. The ones that just didn’t quite fit in. The ones that needed that, you know, that educator to just think outside the box and think sideways for them. That was me my entire career, right?

It’s any wonder I ended up working in specialist settings and just found my calling in life. And, you know, it wasn’t until I traversed the, you know, identification journey with my own children that it was just, like, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! So glaringly obvious that I have ADHD myself. And so many people have said to me, how could you not know?

You know, you work in this space, you’ve, you’ve taught so many ADHD kids. And I, it’s funny, isn’t it? I think part of it comes from the fact that Without going into the full story, but I had a really traumatic childhood. I’m an ace kid, what we call, you know, adverse childhood experiences. And what I know for myself is that I’ve done a lot of work on myself.

to recover from my own experiences in childhood. You know, I was never ever told once by my father that he loved me. And that was obviously a massive thing that I had to learn to, you know, work through and overcome as an adult. And so I feel like when I became a parent, And then I had all of these skills from all of my knowledge and experience and, you know, all of the training that I had done, especially with trauma informed practices.

I just very naturally implemented them with my own children. And what I actually realised was that I had been providing myself with support. and scaffolding and therapeutic tools, my entire life, naturally, because of my training, right? And so, so many people have said to me, how, how have you become so successful and gotten so far without medication, for example, right?

And these are the reasons why I think other people look at me and think that I make raising ADHD children seem easy. And don’t get me wrong, disclaimer. We have massive stormy days in our house too, but what I think for me being late identified has just been an incredible unfurling.

Of taking me to an even deeper level of self love and acceptance. Because I feel like I already had a lot of that, Adina, but I… It was almost like, I feel like you might be able to resonate with this as well, being late identified. I feel like there is some people who probably haven’t done the work in terms of unpacking their childhood and all that sort of stuff that I had already done.

So when it came to me, actually the light bulb going off in my brain, oh my gosh, I have ADHD. It was just like this really joyful moment of everything connecting, all the dots making sense, right? And obviously I’ve worked with lots of kids with trauma backgrounds. And there’s a lot of, it’s almost like the chicken or the egg with a lot of adopted kids.

Is it the trauma that caused the ADHD or is it the ADHD that’s genetic? And I guess the fact that I also grew up in a traumatic childhood. For most of my life, I assumed that a lot of the way that I am or the thought process that I have or the empathy and all those sorts of things that I have was due to my adverse childhood experiences. And once again, I’ll never know. You know what I mean? And sometimes I think because what we know with ADHD is it is genetic and my kids are adopted. So it almost then, you know, is adds this even more incredible part of the story. That I have found myself on this journey through this beautiful experience with my kids.

And you know, it’s so funny with the book, we were sitting there having this really beautiful moment and I said to the kids, I said, you know that this book would never have happened. I would never have known that I am ADHD if it wasn’t for you. Coming into my life and being my children and, you know, it was just this really beautiful moment of connectedness between my kids and I.

That we’re in this together, you know.

Adina: Amazing. You model that joy in the self knowledge, not the, I’m not going to say you’re free of judgment for yourself. I don’t know that to be, um, to be able to say that, but you, you know, you’re talking about your identification journey as unfurling. I love that word so much.

You know, your growing understanding of yourself. It sounds like growing compassion for yourself and how you model that for your kids that does everything for their identity, for their knowledge that, you know, A D H D is, I mean, talk about this, it’s almost like the first slide in all my presentations and webinars is like, neurodivergence is about being different, not broken, but how do we model that with our words and our intention and how we share that?

And then you extend that, not just to your kids, but to the world with your wonderful books. So thank you for sharing your view.

Chrissie: And do you know why I love that word unfurling? You know, as an educator, and all the educators listening to this, and specialists as well, because we never stop learning. And we try to impart this knowledge to children as well, that we’re lifelong learners. And oh my goodness, I have learned so much from my kids.

Does anyone want to deep dive about snails? Because… I have learned so much about snails because, as we know, ADHD children are just so incredibly curious about the world and nature in particular, which I just love. Anyway, and they bring all these amazing things into your life, don’t they? And I, you know, live and breathe that, where I say Thank you so much for bringing this into our world, because I’m turning 50 this year and I didn’t know that snails did X, Y, and Z, and now I do because of you.

Adina: I’m so glad you brought up snails. Can I just give you one hot tip is please don’t leave them in a container that’s sealed for a whole summer in the sun. Just speaking from experience. Yeah, sorry about that,

Chrissie: That did not end well. Well, we ended up with all these tiny little baby snails. Anyway, the whole unfurling analogy, also applies to children, and especially ADHD children, because this has been really transformational, um, in my work, is that because the ADHD brain is, we know, is wired.

With some challenges around self control, you know, and executive functioning, the growth mindset philosophy and a fundamental belief in yourself as a human being and as a learner means that you can learn to go against some of those wirings. If you have the right language and the right support around you, right? And really interestingly, in terms of trauma, what we know, and what I’ve certainly seen through my work, is that, you know, kids who’ve been exposed to more physical abuse You know, bones break and bones heal, but the neural pathways in the brain and the messaging or the words that we’re surrounded by, or if our parents are constantly telling us that we’re amazing and you’ve got this and you know, you can overcome this or I’m here to support you.

Those are the things that they hear over and over again, which become part of their identity.

Adina: It’s so, so important. I think there’s a lot there, and I’m just even thinking about my journey, um, to coming to this session on time with you. All those executive functioning challenges and all that. And I think there’s, there’s such a mix that we need to be modeling for the kids, sharing with them and encouraging them to do is both challenge the concept that I can’t do X.

Uh, and I know I’ve got a friend who’s very recently identified as an ADHDer, and she’s struggling a lot with that idea of like, well, does that mean I now can’t do X, Y, and Z? I can’t do any of those things? So she’s actually having a real hard time, you know, through that process. Um, as opposed to, I think the way that you and I approached it, which was, okay, now I understand a bit more of acceptance.

Like now I understand why I am the way I am. And then alongside that comes with that acceptance of, well, how can I work with my brain type? How can I work? Yeah, with less friction

Chrissie: Yeah. And I think that that self compassion that you spoke about before, you know, self awareness. This is an incredible tool that we can give to ourselves in understanding how not only we see ourselves, but the type of person that we want to present to other people, right? This is what I say to my kids.

Every single day you have a choice about who you want to be. Sometimes your ADHD brain will make you or try to make you say or do things that you know deep in your heart are not who you want to be. You know what I mean? And so that’s part of my philosophy is that you can, you know, and I do this to myself even now that I have so much more self awareness about my ADHD and completing tasks and all that sort of stuff.

I use so much of my own mental strength. Chrissie! Stay focused. Finish this first. Do not move on to something else. And I can talk myself around. You know what I mean? And this is what I teach my kids as well. Is that, well, yes, our children need a lot of support and a lot of help as they’re growing into their skills to be able to do that.

But when we model that ourselves, out loud, And that’s what I say to families as well. It’s like, we’ve got to be really explicit with kids. It’s almost like we’re almost like Panto, you know, which can feel a little bit uncomfortable for a lot of people, but it’s almost the kids. They have to see it, feel it, to believe it, and then action it themselves, right?

Adina: I love that, uh, yeah, you’re sort of exaggerating, you’re like, you’re really talking aloud and sharing, this is what I’m going through, this is my thought process, and sometimes this is how I’m challenging my default mode. And then other times probably it’s like, well, this is who I am. So it’s a bit of a balance, isn’t it.

Chrissie: So even if I think about examples with meditation, I mean, I, I mean, I knew the power of it for my kids, but one of my children just kept refusing, refusing, refusing. And I just kept modeling, modeling, modeling. And then one day they said, I’ll give it a try.

You know, and I think a really big challenge, I think, for us as parents sometimes is we know the benefits or, you know, you and I have so many skills, as in, you know, our children grow up with therapists and this is where we need our beautiful teachers and other supports to help us sometimes, to help our kids grow their skills, but when they actually feel it for themselves, So now my daughter will get noise defenders automatically for herself because I’ve continued to model it and she uses them at school and she now supports her own brain functioning without needing to be told or reminded.

Adina: champion. She didn’t get there overnight.

Chrissie: No, absolutely. And this is the thing. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of repetition and also I think a lot of consistency in terms of us responding and our family values and expectations.

Adina: Yeah. And, and that’s something that I think comes through so strongly in your books, which is, how we can, as grownups think about this, like you said, you and I, we’ve got, you know, therapeutic and education background. So we’ve done training. Maybe not all of it applies these days anymore, if it wasn’t super affirming, but we’ve got a lot of tools about how to support kids to develop and grow.

And most parents don’t have that. They are parents and have many other roles and many other backgrounds. And, I think your books kind of guide a beautiful mindset for parents to do parenting. And that’s just so valuable.

Chrissie: A lot of people say that to me, what would Chrissie say now? For me it comes so naturally because I’ve been communicating this way for so long, you know, um, and don’t get me wrong people. Disclaimer, Mary Poppins has bad days where she yells at her kids too, you know, let’s just get that straight.

But I truly believe, you know, if we, I think we have to also be realistic. stick as ADHD families is that our life is filled with fluctuation. ADHD we know is a rollercoaster of emotions on so many different levels, especially for our children who really lack self regulation, and coping strategies, which is why they need our support.

We’re going to have big days! As I say, we play hard, we love hard, we fight hard, and we always repair hard afterwards. Do you know what I mean? And I think that that’s part of that radical acceptance of, you know, we’re loud, we argue, but we love each other unconditionally and we always repair the relationship and we take responsibility for our own actions.

Adina: Yeah, that’s important. That’s a rollercoaster of joy and a lot of emotions too.

Chrissie: And that’s real life though, right?

Adina: Yeah, absolutely. And even if it is more amplified than many other families, I think probably every family will identify with aspects of this. I’d love to hear about your journey to coming up with the new book, Love Me, Love My ADHD, how you decided it needed to exist, how it came to be, anything that you want to share about it

Chrissie: What happened with me is when I started talking publicly, because obviously I’ve got, you know, the public profile and started talking more about ADHD, it just grew so much traction. And then all of a sudden I just had this incredible community who’d been following me for years.

And Well either had children diagnosed or they were late to identification or whatever the case may be and the more I started talking about ADHD the more people kept saying Help, you know and wanting help. And so what I actually did was I wrote my course love me love my ADHD because I just I actually, to be honest, and like you, we have all evolved in terms of our growth as specialists and professionals.

And what that means is we know that the information and advice And the judgment that is often dished out in some of those groups where all of these people are turning to for support, because they’re so desperate for guidance around ADHD kids.

I was like, right, I’ve got to do something. I had to do something, you know. What’s one of my gifts being ADHD is I wrote a course off, you know, using all of my knowledge and all of my skills and it literally went gangbusters. And I think that’s the thing is when you move to the one to many model, you understand that you can impact and reach so many more people.

And I knew that Love Your Brain had such a great impact and had, the message had spread far and wide as well. But this was more niche, so the book centers around the optimal life for an ADHD family. Not saying that, you know, we’re perfect or we get it right every single day.

But it’s also really about understanding that ADHD families need support. We need compassion. We need people around us who are neuro affirming and who understand ADHD in our kids and our parenting philosophy and The most important piece which you would know from following me for a few years is education And if we can’t get I call it the ducks analogy, right?

It’s like all of the ducks that have to line up for our kids and families That educational piece is so important for us because our children spend so much time at school. And the next most important relationship, talking about transferring relational safety, we relinquish them, our beautiful children who we’ve, you know, brought up to this stage.

point in their life where they’re about to start formal learning. And this is where I see a massive juxtaposition or conflict in personal values and behaviorism. You know, in what’s happening in a lot of schools still. We’re getting better, we’re moving the needle, but it’s not catching up quick enough, right?

Families are progressing way quicker than the education system and let’s face it, it’s a beast. But what happens for families lives, like ours, is when you actually find an educational setting that aligns and, um, practices, trauma informed philosophies in education. it literally is life changing.

Because your children are getting that consistent messaging across the board, both in family and in education, where they spend most of their time.

Adina: Have you got any examples of ways that schools or teachers have really done beautiful practice with your kids or kids that you’ve supported or stories that you know of?

Chrissie: I can honestly tell you the number one thing that has changed the trajectory of my son’s life is he doesn’t get suspended anymore. You know, we went from a school where he was suspended daily and the damage that that did to him in terms of his understanding of himself as a learner, and this was when he was in prep. Now, don’t get me wrong, we still have our moments, but it is met with. unconditional positive regard every single time. It is proactive and preventative rather than reactive. So they will always step in and call us or put things in place to avoid it escalating or, you know, you know what it’s like. And the most important thing is the constant messaging that you are always welcome here, even on your hard days. And every single day we will wipe the slate clean and give you an opportunity to come back and do over and start again because we believe in you.

Adina: What a gem of a school. Did it take a change of school or a change of leadership?

Chrissie: It absolutely did. And this is one of the biggest annoyances or grievances for me, I suppose, as an educator, who passionately believes that schools are such an important part of our children’s developing identity because they belong to a community. They start to build relationships away from their parents, from their trusted adults, and they grow into their own understandings of who they are as a human being, right?

And they’re part of a collective. And I just couldn’t make it work. My goodness, I gave it everything to the point where I almost lost myself as an educator because I just couldn’t make it work. And, you know, I meet so many amazing educators, Adina, who are trying and are reading and learning and bending and thinking sideways for our kids.

But ultimately, it comes back to school leaders. this is the top down approach that I talk about, right, is that the wave of change in education has to start at the top. It has to start with educational leaders who understand that trauma informed practices work for all children, not just neurodivergent children, right.

and we see all these incredible teachers trying to make change and trying to implement some of the things I’ve spoken about and just getting lots of resistance from leadership. Like, for example, a family that I was working with recently who the school had been practicing the Berry Street educational model, which is what I’m trained in as well, change of leadership.

Leadership came and said, no, we’re not doing that anymore. And all of a sudden all these kids are struggling because a new leader has come in and we know that a change of principal can change a whole school because they bring their own set of values, right? And what really bothers me about this in our country is that you can have two schools in the same suburb delivering completely different things because of the leadership or a principal who has embedded a philosophy of inclusion. Literally four blocks away from each other. Yet as families in Australia, we can’t attend that school because we’re zoned to the school that we live the closest to.

And when you just can’t make that work, like I see so many families stick it out and trust me, you know, it was traumatic for us as a family. It really did impact our family, not just my son, but his sister. And our entire family unit, and in the end, we just had to surrender and made the decision to uproot our whole life to find a new school that we thought could support our children better.

And we did it, but why should we have to move in our country to access that for our children?

Adina: It’s very unfair and and you come with a lot of tools and knowledge and insight to be able to advocate and know what not okay looks like and also probably to know what probably okay looks like. What would you say to parents who are in a similar position feeling like, This is not working the school we’re in they’re not supportive They don’t have an approach that is affirming that is seeing my child for a whole human who as you said should be always welcome. What would you say to those parents to support them, guide them?

Chrissie: Be brave. start looking, you know, and we have to weigh up. Are we actually traumatising our children more by sending them to an environment that is sending them messaging that doesn’t align with us, which was what exactly what was happening to us.

Adina: Yeah.

Chrissie: And we were very clear with our new school that they were going to have to spend probably the first year undoing a lot of that.

And they were very open and accommodating to that. but I think it’s also the, the biggest shift for me as well about having that support which might actually encourage some people listening to this to be brave and be courageous and understand that it’s a big wide world out there. There are lots of really amazing schools and amazing educators doing amazing things.

If you’re willing to relocate or move suburbs or whatever it might be Because that is really scary and it’s huge to uproot, you know, your whole life leave behind everything, you know, trust me We’ve just lived through it. But honestly, I can’t imagine now being anywhere else Because, it has been so significantly positive for our children. Which then obviously affects the whole family, and the whole family dynamic, and all that sort of stuff. But I have to remind myself that both my husband and I work for ourselves. So, it was easier in that sense, if we didn’t have to find jobs, we could relocate. But, don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty huge, leaving behind all your friends, and family, and your community, and all that sort of stuff.

It’s literally like starting all over again.

Adina: How far did you move?

Chrissie: One hour! Which doesn’t sound like much but it literally it is when you move somewhere where you don’t really know anyone and you know You’re putting a lot of faith when you’ve lived through such a traumatic educational experience that we had I just remember saying to my husband we can’t get this wrong.

We can’t just pick another school and go Oh, let’s see how it goes because it was so significant and one of the things that I really advocate for for is finding schools where at least at a bare minimum the leadership are trained in the Berry Street Educational Model, you know, trauma informed practice in Australia in particular.

It is literally, it is everything that I live and breathe like you, um, but at least then you know, because if you understand school systems, how they work, that anytime there’s a child with a behavioral challenge, they will be sent to the assistant principal. Who is then generally the one who does the repair work.

That key player or that relationship is incredibly important in schools. And if those, that key person or the leadership who are, you know, employing people and organising professional development for the staff are not trauma informed, then that will filter through the entire school community.

Now, I’m in Victoria, so you’ve got to understand that most of my knowledge obviously comes from the Victorian education system. And one of the things that I know is rolling out in Victoria, I’m not sure if it’s Australia wide, is that the education department has finally recognised that we need help, our teachers need more support, and that there are so many neurodivergent kids presenting in mainstream schools.

that teachers are not, it’s not that they’re not willing, they just, one, don’t have the time to learn about how to support them, and they don’t have enough help in the classroom, right? Um, but they’ve rolled out this new initiative where there will be trauma informed specialists coming into all schools across Victoria to support with those sorts of things.

But once again, school leaders will identify where the need is.

I’m still drawing it back to the fact that it really does come back to, to the top level. Um, because they’re the ones making those decisions and, and identifying who needs the training and where it goes and where the support is delivered.

Adina: Like with any, title or approach, you know, tools like zones of regulation, which can be used both in an affirming way and a non affirming way. And it’s really about how people are using the tools that they have available to them, I guess I wonder is the Berry Street approach always a good sign or does it still need to be approached with caution where, you know, families are still checking what that actually means to a school and how they truly go about applying trauma informed practices to supporting kids?

Chrissie: What the Berry Street Model really does is a whole school philosophy. So it is meant to be embedded within the whole school. And this is once again, you know, I talk to families about, um, relationships and people coming into our life, season, reason, or lifetime. And teachers are seasonal, right? And so what that means in our current education system, and we see this across the board with so many neurodivergent kids, is that they can absolutely thrive under the care and support of one particular teacher, and then the following year it all falls apart. And that’s what I mean about that consistency. The research indicates especially around behaviour incidences in schools, the more consistent we are, As educators, in terms of schools using the same approaches, the same language, the same philosophies, And strategies consistently, like from prep to grade six. Kids have had five years of hearing that, right? But what we see in education is every teacher doing their own thing. And the Berry Street model is really an underpinning that this is a school community philosophy and approach that we use and it, it, it basically centers around relational safety and unconditional regard.

I mean, those are the two key things, right? And also understanding that teachers are that pivotal relationship to the child that is then transferred from the parents.

Adina: It sounds, when you step back, you’re like, it sounds so obvious. I mean, shouldn’t we all just do that?

Chrissie: You know, relational safety, and I do run PD around this for teachers too because it’s almost, it’s a state of being, talking about radical acceptance and, everyone loving my whole philosophy because it’s like, it’s part of me. It’s an energetic energy exchange.

It’s the way you move, the way you communicate, the way your eyes light up when you talk to children, all of those subliminal messages that we send to kids. Because they’re absorbing all of that stuff, you know, they’re these little energetic beings. It’s so much more about a state of being rather than doing, if that makes sense.

Adina: So it’s sort of how you just exist every day in your role in being with the children. And that has such an impact. Yeah.

Chrissie: And as I used to say to the kids in my classroom, this is your classroom. This is your community. Yes, I’m in charge of delivering the content, but everything else is a team approach, a community approach. Do you know what I mean? And that’s where I feel a really big part of my success is that unwavering commitment to value children as individual human beings.

They’re not robots. And, you know, just because I’m the teacher or I’m the educator, and yes, I’ve got to deliver the content, But everybody has their own individual needs. Spiritual, emotional, physical, energetic. If we’re talking about ADHD kids. You know, how do we ensure that those things are met in a classroom?

And that’s where I have a lot of empathy for our amazing educators. Because it’s becoming really hard to be able to do that and be that for everybody. When we’re getting so many neurodivergent kids, you know, in every classroom.

Adina: What would you say in your experience or in the training that you do For teachers or therapists listening. How can they centre themselves, regulate themselves, to turn up and be the professional that they would like to be, when they are faced with a kid who is swearing at them, or throwing a chair, so what, yeah, what would you say to professionals who need to approach those situations with their highest version of themselves?

Chrissie: Put your ego to the side. It’s never personal. It’s never about you, really, it’s really about understanding that for our kids, you know, that they’re, they’re telling us through their behaviour that they’re in crisis, or they’re not coping, or they’re stressed. I talk about behaviours as stress responses, if we see an adult who’s stressed, What do we do?

We offer support. We offer first aid. We offer medical assistance. And this is how I teach educators to look at meltdowns. Because when we flip that, the way that we’re looking at it, it’s not a child throwing a chair because they’re having a tantrum. It’s actually a child whose brain is completely offline, who has lost all ability to think cognitively.

And your job in that moment is to get that brain back online. And, support that child through a very stressful time, whatever that may look like. And I think, you know, it’s hard for teachers because they have so much pressure put on them to deliver academically, right? And I feel like this is where relationships with parents and children is so incredibly important. Teaching 101 or therapeutic work 101 is build a relationship first. Trust, safety, connection, invest in the child, you know, make them believe that you actually care about them. The learning will come after that.

Adina: It starts with safety, psychological, physiological safety, relationship. is in there, that’s the relational safety, you can’t possibly do your learning and your handwriting and your history lessons if you just don’t have all of that, you know, those lower levels in place.

Chrissie: Absolutely, and I feel like with the more you try to control children, expect them to conform, the more stressed they’re going to become.

Adina: And that is such a key point, that idea, which may, I want to say it’s old school teaching. I don’t think it’s left in the past, um, but at the idea of, you know, I am the grown up and I have power over you and I will tell you what to do and you will respect me. That’s one of the biggest ideas we’re challenging here, isn’t it?

Chrissie: I just don’t like that word respect. I don’t use that word. It’s so old school, and almost, you know, it comes from a hierarchical viewpoint of that I am better than you because I’m an adult.

Adina: Hmm.

Chrissie: You know what I mean? And I think fundamentally as a human being, I just don’t believe that that is correct. I don’t, I don’t believe even as a parent that my needs are more important than my children.

I believe that my, ability to maintain my own Regulation and um, stability is my, absolutely my responsibility and that need is incredibly important. But it’s not more important than anyone else in my family. Everybody’s needs are important, right? And this is how I teach families to live life in general with kids.

It’s like we’re all in this together, we’re a team. You know, like the other day my daughter was having a wobbly and my son thought he’d join the party. And um, I said, mate, you know, in these moments she needs our help. This is when we got to come together and support and help her through her big feelings.

You know, we can be that person that helps her work through this, not make her feel worse.

And I think people actually really underestimate kids. Like, they’re so clever, they’re so intuitive, you know, and I think ADHD children as well have this, I know my son does in particular, this sixth sense, as I like to call it.

He’s very perceptive and very aware of people and, he sees things and is quite intuitive like me. I think it’s one of our our strengths, but it’s also this Fundamental belief that every single person is worthy and I’m no better than you because I’m older than you Does that make sense or just because I’m an adult and so I sometimes I say to my son I’m like, I’m not trying to tell you what to do mate.

I’m just I’ve lived a little bit longer than you so sometimes I have ideas about things I know or That, I’ve seen happen with other kids where things could possibly go wrong and if you still want to go down that road, that’s okay. I’ll support you, but it’s not see I told you so or it’s not well I’m an adult therefore you must do as I say.

Adina: Yeah. And I think there’s still a place of balance. to say, well, there are some things that the grownups do need to decide. And, and that does come from a place of, um, reason. We shouldn’t be, I believe just putting into place boundaries just because I always suggest that people should explain to their kids, whether the child can understand the language or not explain why you’re putting a boundary into place, explain why you’re saying no, or explain why a rule is there, and if you can’t explain it to the kid, then you can’t explain it to yourself, and then maybe that boundary shouldn’t be there.

Chrissie: I’ll never forget the day my son turned around and said to me, Well, how come you get to do it? I don’t say, well, I’m an adult and you’re a child and I get to do it because I’m older than you, you know, um, I just eat the chocolate when you’re asleep so I don’t have to justify it to you.

It’s almost like eating vegetables, you know, both of my kids have cognitively got to the point of their own understanding why eating vegetables are actually good for you.

Because we’ve never forced them to eat them, we’ve just continued to model and talk about healthy brains and what your body needs and all that sort of stuff. And then cognitively, both of my kids did this, and I think it was probably around the age of six or seven for both of them, where they’re like, oh mum, did you know vegetables are actually really good for you?

I was like, oh really? Yeah, maybe that’s why I love them so much. And once again, they got there on their own terms. You know what I mean?

Adina: Very important.

Chrissie: I talk to parents a lot about this, is making sure that our expectations are in alignment with where our children are cognitively at, right?

And for ADHDers, they need more time. They need more time to grow into their skills. And they will get there. They need a lot more practice and they certainly won’t get there just by being told to do things.

They’ve got to live through it, grow through it, you know, all those sorts of

Adina: And that patience as a grown up, supporting neurodivergent kids, supporting any kid, can be really, really hard. And you might… I think defaulting to that sort of behavioral approach, like eat your veggies because I said so, and then you’ll get the chocolate. That approach feels effective because you might see it work in the moment.

Maybe, maybe not. But the long game is where it’s really at. You know, you’ve just described this beautiful scenario where you haven’t put pressure on the kids to eat veggies. You’ve modelled, you’ve discussed, you’ve shared reasoning, and when they were ready… Then they actually got into it, and that’s the long term change.

That’s such a beautiful example of the long game.

Chrissie: And I feel like too with a lot of neurodivergent kids who can at times be quite rigid, you know, brains love to be safe. Gently stretching the window of tolerance, for me, has been a really big part of the success with my kids too. In that, we stay true to family values. So, I’ll give you an example. So, we’ve relocated to the coast, by the way.

Hello. We live on the near the Great Ocean Road. But, you know, going to the beach is a real sensory experience. For me too, it’s been one of my epiphanies. It’s like I love being at the beach but I don’t like the sand. I certainly don’t like, you know, sitting in the hot blazing sun for hours on end.

I don’t like the feeling of salt on my body and one of my kids is exactly the same, right? So when we’re a team Two of us love the beach. Two of us could take it or leave it, right? But because we’re a family, what I’ve had to do is a lot of work. And I, and this is a really beautiful example of how your own identification can be a strength and a tool that you use to help your children grow.

is that my son and I, who are way more sensory, we team up and we plan how we’re going to support ourselves at the beach. So we can stay longer and stretch our window of tolerance and sit in being uncomfortable while the other two swim and splash around and have a great time. Right?

Adina: And you have to come back to why, like, why are you doing that? Well, it sounds like there’s a relational reason. There’s an interpersonal factor. There’s a bit of compromise. They’re really good reasons for getting a little bit uncomfortable, but with as much safety as possible.

Chrissie: Absolutely. And always being there to support in the uncomfortableness, and that’s why it sort of really works for us as a team of four, because one’s off having a great time and mum’s over here still supporting and offering that unconditional regard. We put a lot of expectations on children to do all the things and be all the things.

But the reality is, I’m an adult. And if I don’t want to eat broccoli, I don’t eat broccoli. If I don’t want to go to the beach, I don’t go. Yet we expect children to do all of the things all of the time because they’re kids. so I’ve seen specifically with my son, him grow so much in confidence and ability to say, it’s not my favorite, but I’ll give it a go.

Or it’s okay. I don’t have to swim at the beach. I can dig holes and eat snacks, and the way that he’s been able to grow himself through the way that I’ve modeled that and encouraged him to stretch. Has been incredible, you know, and I think at times lots of families really avoid meltdowns because they’re really hard and they’re uncomfortable.

No one wants to see their kids distressed and it’s important that we understand why we’re stretching the window of tolerance and what is the value in doing that for our kids long term, you know, in terms of them being whole human beings, right?

Adina: You have to be seeing the big picture because Let’s just say for example that you and your son had been sick that week your window of tolerance for this uncomfortable beach scenario Will probably be a lot lower and maybe that’s the week to say actually let’s divide and conquer We’re going to the shops today or you know, whatever’s more comfortable for both of you and just seeing that bigger picture and going well Where am I at today?

Or where’s my child at today to be able to manage this extra demand?

Chrissie: You never stop growing and you just don’t know what experiences are out there or people waiting for you If you’re able to be open to those experiences, I suppose

Adina: think that’s something we can reflect on as grown ups is recognise those hard things that we’ve done. Hopefully they were internally motivated.

Chrissie: Mm

Adina: But there’s been a lot of joy that has come from them, or a lot of learning, or opportunities. Maybe not only good things, but there is a benefit to learning, and I think everything that we’re talking about, it’s not just about letting kids just be where they are and never challenging them.

Chrissie: They want to feel safe, predictable, routine, you know, and all within varying levels of complexity

Adina: And once you have that in place, anything else becomes possible. You know, once that safety or that structure or that, that wellness, whatever that looks like, anything else becomes possible.

Chrissie: I often say that phrase to my kids the philosophy of if there are decisions that I have to make that you don’t like, always know that it comes because I love you, and my most important job on the planet is to keep you safe and alive, as I joke to my kids, you know. Like my seven year old wants to ride all around the streets by himself. I’m like, dude, you’re only seven, okay? I know you’ve got confidence, and you’re as bold as anything, but at the end of the day, I’m your mum, and my job is to keep you alive, right?

And sometimes you ain’t always gonna like that. Yes,

Adina: That’s, um, a very well thought out boundary.

Chrissie: totally. Keeping them alive at all costs.

Adina: Very good reason. Chrissie, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’re just busting to share? Anything that you really want to say to parents, professionals, anyone who supports neurodivergent children that we’ve not touched on?

Chrissie: Yes, you can’t do it alone. Additional needs parenting has so many layers. and complexities and parents are expected to be across so many different things and learning so many different things and one of the things I really want to encourage parents and mothers in particular who I know carry a lot of the load when it comes to therapies and school advocacy is you don’t have to do it alone.

It is not a deficit on you to ask for help and having your neuroaffirming village around you. is so incredibly important. And every single day you have a choice about the people that you choose to invite into your village and your community. And it’s coming back to what I was saying before, season, reason, or lifetime.

Sometimes we have to say goodbye to some of those relationships, whether that might be therapists or pediatricians or friendships that are no longer serving you your family. And that It can be a bit of a grief process, I think, at times for families, which is a really big part of the work that I do in terms of using, you know, trauma healing to move through that grief, but it’s okay to say, I need to outsource this, or I need help with this.

If I’m really busy with work and I just can’t keep on top of the piles of stuff that our kids collect, I bring in some cleaners, you know, and maybe that’s coming from a place of privilege that, I can afford to do that. But I also feel like it’s a big, it’s a gift I give myself

in terms of knowing that at that particular point in time, that will alleviate a lot of stress for me.

And so I outsource at various different times, support workers, cleaners, whatever it might be, and I always, always want to make sure that the people on my team are getting me and my kids where we need to be. And if they are not, then it’s time to move on and start finding other people who will help you and your family keep moving forward, right?

Because life will keep moving us forward, Adina. That is how it works, right? And so often when we’re stuck, or when like we’re banging our head against a brick wall with a school or whatever it might be, or we’re a therapist, we’re just thinking like this is not working anymore. It’s okay to let go of some of those relationships.

And actually, it’s really important that you do to keep your family moving forward.

Adina: So there’s two big ideas, which is it’s okay to get help and it’s okay to walk away if that other person is not helpful. None of that’s easy.

Chrissie: a lot harder if it’s family members. Let’s just get that straight.

Adina: Absolutely.

So Chrissie, this has been an utter delight. I know we could probably chat all day, but I also know that you’re a very busy bee. What I’m gonna do is share all the links to follow up on, you know, where to find you online in the show notes, but I will say them as well, so for anyone who’s ready to hop on Instagram, you are on Instagram at, @ChrissieChaosToCalm.

C H R I S S I E, but yes, I will pop a link in the show notes. Your business is chaos to calm consultancy. com and your book. Love me. Love my ADHD. I’ll pop some links to how you can go find that in the show notes. So please go find it if you have an ADHD er, or, you know, a loved one, or even yourself.

I think even adults who are ADHD ers could benefit a lot from just reading it to themselves.

Chrissie: Thank you too for the beautiful work that you’re doing. You inspire me as well, and I love that our philosophies are so aligned, and our willingness, I think, to grow, I think is incredibly important as specialists as well, because we’ve been in this business for, I mean, I’m 25 years now, you know, there’s no way some of the things I was doing 20 years ago would fly now, you know what I mean in terms of our behaviorism approaches and all that sort of stuff So I think for parents too It’s that willingness to understand that we’re never going to get everything right all of the time. And just keep be open to learning and listening. I think to others with lived experience, which has been really transformational for me

Adina: Absolutely. I think that’s how we’ve all landed where we are, going, Oh, your lived experience sounds a bit like mine. Hang on a minute. thank you so much. And I can’t wait to connect with you again. Bye.

Chrissie: Bye.

Adina: Thank you so much for sharing this audio space and time with me, and thank you for being open to learning and unlearning and truly listening to the neurodivergent experience and perspective. If you found this episode helpful, please share it with a friend and join me on Instagram and Facebook. I’m @play.learn.chat

that’s Play.Learn.Chat, you’ll find all the links that we discussed in the show notes. Have a spectacular day.

 

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