by Bryan Post
By focusing on just the cognitive and behavioral aspects of a child’s emotional well-being, traditional mental health has failed to fully acknowledge the impact of trauma on adopted children cognitively, emotionally, and physically. The following are some additional concrete steps that parents can take which may assist in helping adopted children who’ve experienced trauma begin to feel safer and more secure in their new family environments.
- Do not hit traumatized children. Doing so will only identify you as a threat. The biblical verse spare the rod, spoil the child speaks to the raising of sheep. A rod is used to guide the sheep and the staff to pull him back into line when he strays. Hitting children, just like sheep, will cause them to become frightened of you and in many instances to runaway or hit back.
- There is never enough affection in the world. A very simple technique for time is the affection prescription 10-20-10. Give a child 10 minutes of quality time and attention first thing in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 in the evening. Following this prescription of time has proven to have a great impact on the most negative behavior.
- Encourage an IEP in the classroom developed an understanding of the child’s stress and fear. This may assist in addressing such vital areas as homework, playground, peer interaction, lunchtime, and physical education. All common areas of reduced structure and increased stress.
- Educate yourself regarding the impact of stress and trauma on families. Try not to scapegoat your child for their difficulties, but rather take responsibility for creating the environment necessary for healing his hurtful experiences. There are many resources available. A few of note are: www.postinstitute.com; www.oxytocincentral.com; www.ChildTraumaAcademy.org; www.traumaresources.org and www.reactiveattachmentdisorderparenting.com
- Seek support. Parenting a child with trauma history can take its toll on the best of parent. Seek out a support system for occasional respite care, discussing of issues, and the sharing of a meal. Such small steps can go a long ways during particularly stressful times.
Never forget that you are a great parent. During times of stress you won’t always feel like it, but both you and your child were meant to be together. Your child will teach you far more about yourself than you may have ever realized without him. Give yourself time to refuel, connect, and communicate.