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Why Won't They Just Listen?

Reproduced by kind permission of Dee Mills who runs Ripple Therapies

Why wont they just listen

Does your tween or teen catch everything you say, first time?

Thought not.

Feel like you repeat yourself as much now as when they were toddlers?


And when they do hear you, do they often misinterpret your tone? Think you're annoyed or critical when you're not?

Beyond toddler stage this can sometimes feel like wilful misunderstanding. As though you're speaking different languages.

image of girl with headphones why won't they just listen

So here's the science bit. Normal tween/teen attitude aside, if they've always been like this it's probably a side effect of early trauma.

Many adopted children lacked enough healthy co-regulation from a consistent carer. As babies we rely on our carer's nervous system to calm us down; our own systems are immature so we borrow or mirror the flavour of whatever state out carer is in. And if our immature nervous system is overwhelmed for long enough, we develop lifelong defensive coping strategies.

One of these involves how the middle ear muscle structure works. We start tuning in more to high and low frequencies because we associate these with danger. Normal, non-threatening human speech sits in the middle frequency range, which we're not geared up to interpret as well while we're so hypervigilant. We literally don't have the bandwidth.

This hypervigilance becomes our dysfunctional comfort zone, years after the danger has passed. Perceived danger is always just around the corner, which is why in a maths lesson your child might recall everything going on outside in the corridor, but nothing the teacher said.

So how do we overcome this constant state of being more alert than we need to be, using all our energy to pre-empt a non-existent threat?

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a listening programme based on Dr. Stephen Porges' Polyvagal Theory, or the science of feeling safe. Specially filtered music, engineered to create feelings of safety and down-regulate the nervous system, reduces auditory sensitivities and gently retrains the way we perceive and interpret speech.

The development of an app for remote delivery over the pandemic, when demand was very high, means you can listen at home under supervision from a provider. You choose when and where sessions happen, no more 'going to therapy.'

SSP doesn’t guarantee your child will be hanging on your every word, but it can really help self-regulation and communication.

After going through a programme my teen and tween were visibly more relaxed, and engaged in subsequent talk therapy much more effectively. Both their schools noticed a shift, and it prompted me to qualify as a provider myself.

Provision can be funded by the Adoption Support Fund.

By Dee Mills of Ripple Therapies

If you are an adoptive parent and would like to join our group please visit our membership page


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