They scream 14 hours a day, refuse to eat, scratch themselves bloody or sleep through the night: the little patients in the movie “Parents School” drive their parents to despair. A radical therapy promises improvement.
The mother is obviously desperate. Pale, tired and angry, she sits on the couch. If nothing improves this time, she is ready to give her child to the home. It is the beginning scene in the film “Parenting School”, documentary shows the work in the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine of the Children and Youth Clinic Gelsenkirchen. The child being talked about is Anna, a tender blond girl not even in preschool age.
In conversation with n-tv.de Dietmar Langer calls these situations “our daily bread”. The graduate psychologist is the Principal Therapist of the Department of Pediatric Psychosomatics. Since 1991 he has specialized in children like Anna and their families. Children screaming 14 hours a day. Children who refuse to eat or eat chicken nuggets or sausage ends for years. Children who hardly sleep, even if they can barely keep their eyes open with tiredness. Children scratching themselves bloody.
Anyone who comes to the clinic in Gelsenkirchen is at the end of the day and ready to go on a hospital stay. “Parents, who lovingly took care of their children, put everything back, but the child’s stress level does not change, it does not get better,” says Langer in the friendly Ruhrpott dialect. The children suffer from the chronic stress syndrome: as a result, they have developed behaviors that develop destructive powers.
A question of luck or bad luck
“The children get sick because they can not regulate their stress,” says Langer. The causes are manifold. The burden may come from pregnancy because the mother had previously had a miscarriage or a relative died. However, it may also have occurred during childbirth, because there was an emergency cesarean section or the mother had to be operated on after birth. “A child always adjusts to the caregiver’s stress response, which is a useful mechanism in nature that continues after birth.” That’s how Langer explains it to parents and now to the audience.
Even if the situation is long over, the child’s tension is further in the bones. Many small people can handle it, but in some cases the pattern just does not break down anymore. Langer and his colleagues keep hearing the question: what did I do wrong? “But it is not an educational problem, but more a matter of luck or bad luck.” It can meet anyone, regardless of the personality structure of the parents or the socioeconomic conditions. “For me, the university professor sat on the couch and people who wrote books about children, as well as the Hartz IV receiver,” says Langer.
The families first have to spend at least three weeks in the clinic. Everyone gets to know each other during this time. The children are observed in their behaviors, the parents learn how the treatment should proceed. “The program did not come up with somebody at some point, but it has evolved over a long time,” says Langer. He has worked out most of it for years and documented it with the camera. From this material also feeds the film.
No wellness program
“The behavior of the child makes sense from his point of view, but I can not understand that from an adult perspective.” For example, Langer sits in a mat room with two completely apathetic children, the children do not even look at him. He then begins to play, catches a ball, builds a cave. He explains to the mothers and fathers in the parents’ school where he teaches twice a week “how important it is to actually play forgotten.” Children are very sensitive to any kind of manipulation later the other child also falls out of disinterest and suddenly becomes active and even cheerful.
What the therapist sees are attachment, interaction or regulatory disorders and children who use it creatively. With a feel-good program you can not get on with these disturbance pictures. The goal is rather to change the stress pattern of the child. But according to Langer, the therapists have to identify: What is the cause and what is the purpose of maintenance? “We quickly realized that we always have to work with the caregiver.”
In the clinic, the medical staff takes care of the children. “We create the framework that a child needs to regulate, that is predictability and structure,” says Langer. So that the parents can leave behind the disease thinking, there is every day autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation, with the children fantasy iron, relaxation, Snoozeln. This reduces the stress level. This creates a kind of “youth hostel atmosphere”, as Langer calls it.
No educational film, but instructive
The parents are meanwhile sent to the door, some were not out in years. “The partnership is heavily burdened and the families are falling apart.” Often, for years, everything revolved around not eating or not sleeping. Step by step, the therapists try to untie the knots. The parents always come back to their own sore spots that they have not processed and the children get with sleep or Esstraining a solid structure for each problem.
In this way, they subsequently learn what they could not learn because of the high stress load as an infant or toddler. Sometimes drastic measures are necessary to first stabilize. A child must be given a probe that nourishes it until it can eat again. All the children in the movie can be seen eating, sleeping or playing.
Langer estimates that over the years he has looked after 15,000 to 20,000 patients. Not only in the immediate hospital stays, but also in the one to one and a half years accompanying at check-in dates. Meanwhile, there are self-help groups in which the parents support each other. In addition, he has developed the parents driving license, which should convey knowledge about child development.
The film by Jörg Adolph and Ralf Bücheler is not an educational film, says Langer, “more of a kaldeidoscope”. The work in the clinic is not a “blueprint for the everyday life of parents”. But leadership and attachment are not mutually exclusive, and parents who have been more fortunate in their children’s stress resistance can benefit from this insight.