Trauma informed parenting.

Trauma-Informed Parenting is More Important than Ever

posted in: Traumatised Children | 0

Most people can agree that the last 3 years were like no other experience we’ve encountered. COVID-19 stampeded through communities leaving businesses and schools closed in its path. Families suffered the loss of loved ones, loss of income and in many countries, what felt like a loss of freedom. Parents had to circumnavigate remote working while keeping up with normal routines, plus essential schooling (whether remote or virtual) and still trying to make life as normal as possible for the children in their care.

Without additional childcare, some families with two incomes could made the difficult decision to survive off one salary but at the same time, single-parent households who lost work during the pandemic tried to navigate unemployment, lack of support and possible loss of housing all while trying to keep up with schooling and trying to generate an income during a global pandemic. 

This kind of overwhelming level of stress regarding finances, health care and the uncertainty of the future will have long-lasting, traumatic effects on the emotional well-being of adults and children.

The impact of trauma is far-reaching. Results can include (but are not limited to) the inability to find humor and joy in things that once brought us happiness, anger, trouble sleeping and restlessness, nightmares, exhaustion, fear, reduced creativity, loneliness, anxiety and increased vulnerability to illness.

There are many types of trauma that an individual can experience. Trauma in childhood occurs when a child witnesses or experiences an event that poses a real or perceived threat to the life or well-being of the child or someone close to the child. The event overwhelms the child’s ability to cope and causes feelings of fear or hopelessness.

As Covid-19 still makes headlines in the news every now and then we need to learn how to support children by learning how to parent from a trauma-informed lens. We need to recognize the impact of trauma on children and respond to them in ways that do not prolong or extend trauma. Instead, trauma-informed parenting centres on love, connection, healing and freedom.

Here are a few examples of how you can bring this approach into your home:

Prioritise Joyful Connections

“Study after study shows that having a good support network constitutes the single most powerful protection against becoming traumatized. Safety and terror are incompatible,” says Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., in his book “The Body Keeps Score.”   

If we want children to feel safe, we must create loving and joyful memories together because the wiring of our brain circuits coincides with being connected with those around us.

Physical Presence is Important

Be present – we’ve all heard the age-old saying quality over quantity but in today’s social media world it is crucial to not make excuses that you’re spending a certain quantity of time with your children if that time has both of you looking at a screen. Switch off the electronic devices and take time to play your child’s favorite game. Find out what your child’s love language is. Eat dessert before dinner. Create a fort in the kitchen. Dance to your favorite song. Teach your child a new skill. Laugh! Snuggle. Watch their favorite movie.

Children crave undivided attention from their caregivers and the lack thereof can result in a child becoming withdrawn and finding alternative connections to meet this need.

Focus on the positive. 

We know the reason that headline news use the “bad news” approach is that negativity seems to stick to our brains like glue but we can also take advantage of this neuro-plasticity by rewiring our brains to focus on the good. Make a moment at the end of each day, to discuss the positive experiences that your child had that day. Did you enjoy the sunshine? Was it nice to be able to walk outside? Did you enjoy playing with your friend or pet? 

Teach your child to internalize the experience by thinking about it for a few seconds and how it makes them feel physically like feelings of care, or happiness or warm fuzzies. Help them to understand that they can recall those thoughts and repeat as often as they want to!

Don’t be a Dictator

With so many decisions and experiences out of our control during this pandemic, we must remember that children need opportunities to make decisions about things that matter to them.

Keep it simple and start small:

  • What would you like to wear today.
  • Which game would you like to play together.
  • Choose the movie or program to watch before bed.
  • Choose what kind of art project you would like.
  • Choose which daily chores you want to do today or the order in which to do them like sweeping, feeding pets, clearing the tables, organising shelves and cleaning up learning or play areas.
  • Choosing and helping to make and clean up for dinner.

There are many more suggestions we can share and there is no limit to the amount of information on this subject which can be varied and sometimes confusing.

This is why H.E.L.P – Four Stages for Supporting Traumatised Children was developed. It is a training programme aimed at educating parents, teachers, caregivers or anyone working with children so that they are better able to support and empower children experiencing trauma.

Individuals or organisations interested in the H.E.L.P Programme can contact HealingLeaves register for training, which can be delivered either online or in-person.

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