Using Special Time to recover from trauma
My daughter was 2.5 years old when she strolled down the sidewalk behind her father who was carrying suitcases to an AirBnB we had rented in LA, while I was walking behind her carrying her baby sister in her car seat. Suddenly a large, angry, black dog spotted my sweet toddler walking dreamily down the street and started charging toward her, barking loudly, with his intense gaze fixed on her as the target. I saw the dog, I looked at my daughter. I saw that she realized the dog was coming for her. I looked at the fence, which was taller than me and I was fairly confident the dog could not reach her. I saw the fear jump into her eyes - paralyze her - she froze. My thoughts started running. Should I put the baby in the care seat down on the floor and run to my toddler or would the baby get scared too? The dog reached the fence a few feet in front of my daughter.
She began to scream like I never heard before in complete panik. The dog was held back by the fence. I put down the baby in the carrier and ran to my daughter. I picked her up and yelled for her father to help me carry both children. She screamed in my arms. He came and was obviously shocked too. He took her and carried her: unfortunately telling her: "This is what happens if you don’t pay attention walking down the street." followed by me yelling at him to be nice to her. We were all not handling it well.
In the apartment which was right next door to the dog she refused to walk. After a few hours she seemed a bit better, but suddenly she said her leg hurt. She couldn't walk at all and was limping and falling. We considered taking her to the ER but decided to take her to the beach first to see if she would still be limping. At the beach she was fine.
Back at the house she could not walk. We found a new place to stay and moved. At the new place she started walking and came to me with astonishment, announcing: "Mama look, I can walk. She seemed fine."
About two weeks later when we were back home, she started to stutter. First a little bit, then more until she started to give up on communication, because she could not get any words out. I was looking for help. Our pediatrician insisted this was part of normal speech development for many children. I knew it had to do with her trauma. I googled away - All websites I found insisted that stuttering was normal for her age and many children stutter. I kept looking and found a response Patty wrote to a parent looking for help in a similar situation. A child starting to stutter after a dog attack.
After reading Patty’s response, I started with Special Time in the hope to support my daughter. I was happy to see her confidence grow. I learned that I did not have to be in charge, that I did not have to know everything or be competent when playing with her. I was able to relax with her and follow her lead, admiring everything she would bring up and communicate with me through her play. I learned to let go of my parental responsibilities and listen to my daughter, see her and marvel at her with admiration, following her lead. What a pleasure and enrichment for our relationship. Just observe, and follow her lead. It was like a little beautiful vacation for us. Just to be together, just see her, learn about what she thinks, what is important to her, what questions does she have, what does she enjoy. I love to take time to marvel at her and follow her lead.
She drank up my attention which she had been missing so much after the arrival of her baby sister. Our relationship strengthened. Her stutter got better.
Find a time 5-20 minutes that you can dedicate to one child.
Let your child know that you are having Special Time for ? minutes
Set a timer so you both know when it is over.
Give your child your undivided attention (no multitasking) and enthusiasm.
LET YOUR CHILD LEAD - your child decides, you follow.
Set limits only around immediate danger.