Updated: Apr 21, 2021
I mentioned in my previous post that most adopted children have experienced trauma. For children who have been abandoned, this experience in and of itself is extremely traumatic. If we add to abandonment experiences such as extreme poverty, abuse and the death of a parent, we then have a child who has experienced complex trauma.
In the mind of a child who has experienced trauma, the key to survival is CONTROL. This is why we may see behaviors such as hoarding of food and eating issues, defiance and anger outbursts towards parents, lying etc. in our child.
When a child lives in a world that is frightening and unpredictable, he/she will go to extraordinary lengths in order to self-protect. This is innate behavior in the child, even though it is unhealthy or even bizarre in appearance. To the child it is anything but unhealthy and bizarre, for it is his/her means of survival in an unpredictable environment.
How do we parents address these behaviors? It all begins with the environment we create for our child. We must “meet control with control”. I’m not talking here about trying to control our child, but instead, controlling his/her environment by consistently holding to firm boundaries. I will not lie—doing so can be painful, grueling work. But for the traumatized child there is safety and healing in our holding to firm boundaries, even though our child may fight like crazy against them. Examples of these healthy boundaries are regular bedtimes and bedtime routines, consistent mealtimes, regular chore times, along with adhering to a daily schedule that does not overload the child (and you!) with having to run in a hundred different directions every day. Parents, please know that I understand that this is easier said than done. “Meeting control with control” involves the process of teaching our child a radically new kind of normal, which involves safe predictability--a major factor for our child’s healing. More in my next post . . .