As parents of children with a trauma history, we often find ourselves engaged in futile battles with them for control. But when we understand the why behind their fight, the way we parent them can change.
Let’s begin there. We understand the battles you’ve gone through (and are going through) with your child. We’ve been there. Every single day your child fights you for control and it’s exhausting. Sometimes, the battle makes sense. But most of the time, it doesn’t at all. Every day is a merry-go-round and you just want to get off of it for a while.
Breakfast is a battle. Getting ready for school is a battle. Brushing teeth is a battle. Where they sit in the car is a battle. Snack time is a battle. Even when it seems you’ve given them everything they’ve asked for, they still battle you for something they don’t have (or perceive they don’t have).
If you’re anything like us, it leaves you confused, lost, and defeated. But what if we told you there was something deeper going on? What if we gave you a different perspective on their constant battling? What if we told you that even though your child has been in your care for years, there’s still something embedded deep inside of them propelling them to fight, and it has very little to do with you?
Here’s a couple of perspective shifts to help you change the way you view the daily battles with them…
PERSPECTIVE SHIFT #1: Trauma changes the way your child sees the world around them.
Remember that your child’s trauma history has changed their brain. Often, they are not able to think through situations, circumstances, or even consequences for actions logically. Because their frontal lobe where reasoning and logic is disrupted when they are triggered (the amygdala, aka- their alarm system, has flipped), it’s easy for them to bypass the things you’re providing for them, and drill down heavily on what they perceive they don’t have or believe they still need. They cannot see logically that you are providing for them.
Most of the time, they don’t even know they are doing this.
If your child suffered chronic trauma before coming into your care remember that this can leave the amygdala in a constant flip. And this disrupts any logical thinking or reasoning.
This affects the way they see the world around them. So they battle at home, they battle at school, and they battle through life. Your role as caregiver is to help them move back into a state of reasoning and logic. You do this by acknowledging their feelings, and reminding them (calmly) that they’re okay, and you are there to provide for them. There’s way more to say about this, but that would turn a blog post into a book. A separate post for a separate time. 🙂
PERSPECTIVE SHIFT #2: Consider their loss.
Think about this for a moment. For some of your children, before they came into your care they experienced deep loss. Some of them had a complete stranger show up to their first family’s home, and take them to another complete stranger’s home and there was nothing they could do to stop this. They had no say. They had absolutely no control over where they were going, how long they would stay there, or how long before they would see their first parents again. That is a deep deep loss of control my friends!
I’m a homebody. I always have been. When I was a child all I wanted to do was stay at home with my parents. The first summer I went to summer camp as a 6th grader was a disaster. The camp was fun but all I wanted to do was go home and be with my parents. I hated being away from them. One night, during the week, I snuck up to the camp lodge and used a pay phone to call my dad to come and pick me up. He did. And boy oh boy, the deep relief I felt when I saw his truck pull into the camp parking lot was beyond refreshing and reassuring. Considering how much I loved my home and my family (and still do today), I simply cannot fathom being ripped from that and having no control to stop it.
That’s why a child, who has gone through this, fights so desperately for control. They lost all control when a case worker, or authority figure, removed them from everything they knew.
And even if you adopted your child at birth, there may be a loss of identity. There may be a wondering of sorts that they cannot escape. “Where do I come from?” or “Who am I?”
Consider the child who was chronically abused by a first parent, first relative, or caregiver before coming into your care. Something was taken from them and they had no control over this, and zero power to stop it from happening. This has left them in a constant fight with the world around them. They fight because deep within them, something is telling them they’re losing. It may not make sense, and they may not even know they are doing this, but their trauma history propels this belief.
Understanding this, and shifting your perspective to what is really going on, can change everything for you. It can change the way you respond to your child. It can change you from frustrated to compassionate. It can begin to build attachment and bring about healing between you and your child. I say this because this is exactly how I was changed when I realized what was really going on with my child. It’s a transformation you can experience too.
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