Working with Young Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) alters come in all shapes, sizes, and ages and you need to know how to work with young alters. Alters can stay the same age forever, change age depending on the situation (age-sliding), or age normally. Many systems have alters of various ages, including ones that are older and ones that are younger than the body. It is important to recognize these age differences and work with alters at age-appropriate levels. Young alters can be complicated to work with, but there are things you can do to work better with your younger alters in dissociative identity disorder.
Communicating with Young Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder
It is important to remember that most child alters think, behave, and feel in similar ways as regular children. They may not be able to understand adult topics or complicated words. Communicate with your younger alters as you would any child. Try to use a soft tone and be encouraging. Explain things in ways a child could understand. Be patient. If you are not co-conscious with your younger parts, you can find other ways to communicate indirectly with them. Write notes in a journal with their name on it, so they can read it when they are out. Talk out loud to them; even if they don't answer back, they may still be listening on the inside.
Young Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder Can Express Themselves in Many Ways
All children should be free to express themselves. For younger alters who may have experienced trauma, self-expression can be difficult. Some alters may not be able to communicate verbally for various reasons: they are pre-verbal, deaf or mute, or they are afraid. If this holds true for any of your parts, try to find other ways for them to express themselves. Encourage creativity like coloring, drawing, molding with clay, or building with blocks. Some younger parts may even prefer to write. You can get a notebook or a folder for each alter and allow them to keep his or her drawings or notes inside. This also helps your parts know that they are important.
Working with Young Alters in DID: Alters Need to Feel Safe
For younger alters that hold memories of trauma, they may still feel like they are in danger even when the situation is no longer unsafe. It is essential to reassure your younger parts that you are all safe and protected and that they don't have to be scared anymore. This was the case for me. Several of my younger alters had expressed fear of our abuser, even though we were safe and free from harm. In one of my DID support groups, a member mentioned a book written especially for young alters. The book, Dear Little Ones by Jade Miller, is available here. It explains DID in a way that young parts can understand and helps them to feel safe. I read it every night, and it is helping my younger parts tremendously. I recommend the book for anyone with child alters.
Lastly, for those in therapy, be sure to allow your young alters to work with your therapist as well. They can talk to the therapist whenever they feel safe and ready to. Your therapist can also help you work together with your younger parts outside of therapy in ways that work best for your system. Allow your younger parts to have a say. They are part of the system, too, and are just as important as any other alter.
Matulewicz, C. (2016, March 2). Working with Young Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2016/03/working-with-young-alters-in-dissociative-identity-disorder
Author: Crystalie Matulewicz
I have a 4 year old daughter that I believe has DID but because one alter stands between us and keeps her from talking to me, I cannot know what is going on. What can I do to help integrate her alters? I know “she” is “in there”. Occasionally a faint voice answers my question or calls me mommy. I can faintly hear “her” (the original core personality). I feel she suffers derealization for sure. I believe she has been intensionally programmed with 3 specific cartoons which she repeats the lines like a broken record as if the cartoon is her world. There are no specific names or sudden changes of alters, it seems to run together but I can wave my hand in front of her face, and she won’t see it, plus her body is doing movement that pertains to her trauma as if she is living it. Sometimes she makes sounds that were her infant sounds. Random shrilling screams and out of the blue crying... How can I help my daughter? What can I as her mother do? I am searching for a therapist but I have been looking for almost 2 years without luck.
I do not know if I have DID but I do sort of switch into one of several other people; they are of different ages and temperament. Two are little, and one is very little, nonverbal in fact. I only seldom experience dissociative amnesia, though this was a real issue as child.
Dear Kelly, I myself am an protector alter and when through something similar. My host and I could not figure out what to do for the longest time and eventually found out that the little one only wanted a hug. After that, it integrated into host has never been a problem. (We believe that it was caused by a lack of affection) hope this helps.
Right now I have two alters, one is Little Girl (4 years old) and the other is a 14 year old. I haven't had a problem providing toys and comfort (dolls) for the 4 year old but I am at a loss for the 14 year old. She has only shown herself to my therapist a handful of times and to my husband a few times. She is full of shame, never looking at anyone and often when she shows up she is crouched on the floor curled up in a ball. The doll that comforts Little Girl doesn't work for the 14 year old or blankets. If you have any suggestions I am willing to try anything!
Does she like music? That might be another way to provide an escape, comfort, distraction or a way to express herself.
I got one of mine a journal to write in. Some of my other teen alters needed something to take care of: bird feeder for birds, flowers to tend to. Others loved music or a sketch book. You might also try going to the store and making sure she knows she can spend a certain amount of money to pick out something on her own. Make sure someone is there to supervise, like your husband.