Did you know that babies are born with over 100 billion brain cells? I don’t know who counted all those cells, but nevertheless, that’s an amazing statistic! Brain development experts have found
that the first three years of life are the most critical for healthy brain development.
As adoptive and foster parents, we are aware that early childhood traumas such as pre-natal stress, a difficult birth and abuse or neglect can seriously and negatively affect brain development. Specifically, brain functions such as the ability to organize and plan, sensory integration, short-term memory, and attention/concentration, (among numerous others) can be negatively affected by childhood trauma. Additionally, intellectual abilities such as speech, reading and auditory processing can also be affected.
However, parents, here is the good news! Did you know that although you are technically your child’s adoptive or foster parent, that you are also in a sense their “biological” parent? Here’s what I mean: Your consistent and loving interaction and relationship with your child(ren) can actually help his or her brain to heal from trauma. That’s correct, your influence on your child can affect their biology. You may have heard of the scientific term neuroplasticity. The definition of neuroplasticity is “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.” Simply put, under the right circumstances, the brain can regenerate new and healthy connections and thus heal from trauma.
Parents, there is hope--no matter how much trauma your child has endured prior to coming into your home. A ton of research has shown that a previously-traumatized child’s brain can experience healing in a safe, predictable and nurturing environment. Here are some helpful suggestions in accomplishing this goal:
* Sticking to a structured daily schedule
* Offering frequent and consistent praise, even in the small things
* Healthy food and proper hydration
* Plenty of play and physical exercise
* Adequate sleep
* Be an active listener to your child’s words
* Doing things together as a family-- (playing non-competitive games, going on outings/picnics, stimulating “field trips” to places like petting zoos, parks, the beach, hiking , etc.)
For more helpful information on this topic, check out the following excellent resources:
The Whole-Brain Child, by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.
Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, by Dr. Dan Siegel