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.