Although every child is unique in how they process and experience trauma, here are some helpful suggestions for parents:
1. Establishing a set routine for your child is critically important, especially for kids under age 10. Mealtimes, homework time, bath time and bed time should always be the same time, especially during the weekdays. Repetition in routine creates felt safety for a child. Your child’s life prior to coming into your home, it is unlikely that much, if any of his life was predictable. On the contrary, the only thing that was likely predictable was chaos.
2. Kids who have been traumatized often have anger management problems. If your child yells, screams and throws tantrums, you must remain calm but firm in your responses to him. Remember that their out-of-control behavior is based in fear of losing control. As difficult as it may be, you must model remaining in control for your child.
3. Expect regression in your child’s behavior, especially in the early days, weeks and months after joining your family. For your child, being in a new environment—especially one that is stable—is like learning a foreign language. It takes time. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself literally spoon feeding your four-year-old his dinner or rocking your eight-year-old daughter in the rocking chair to comfort her. Many children who have experienced early childhood trauma have completely missed out on these important types of nurturing.
4. When you are talking to your child (in both the good times and hard times), gently encourage her to give you eye contact, but don’t force it. “Can I see those beautiful brown eyes?” Some children cannot give eye contact because it intimidates them and makes them feel out of control. Even if you can’t get eye contact, find ways to get physically down to her level by kneeling, sitting on the floor beside her etc. Over time, doing so builds trust.
More to come on this topic in the next post. Hope this is helpful and thanks for reading!