Understanding and Healing Trauma in the Adopted Child part 2 of 3

by Bryan Post

Though trauma is often times considered a very complicated experience to understand, provided here are five very concrete steps that you can take as the parent of an adopted child to help begin the process of integration in your child’s life. This will enable your child to begin the process healing the past hurts he has experienced.

  1. Trauma creates fear and stress sensitivity in children. Even for a child adopted from birth, their internal systems may already be more sensitive and fearful than that of a child remaining with his biological parents. You must also consider the first nine months in which the child developed. These early experiences as well could have major implications.
  2. Recognize and be more aware of fear being demonstrated by your child. Be more sensitive and tuned in to the small signals given such as clinging, whining, not discriminating amongst strangers, etc. All are signs of insecurity which can be met by bringing the child in closer, holding, carrying, and communicating to the child that he is feeling scared, but you will keep him safe.
  3. Recognize the impact of trauma in your own life. One of the single greatest understandings parents can have is a self-understanding. Research tells us the far more communication occurs non-verbally than verbally. Understanding the impact of past trauma in your own life will help you become more sensitive to when your reaction are coming from a place other than your existing parent/child experience. Re-experiencing past trauma is common when parents are placed in an ongoing stressful environment.
  4. Reduce external sensory stimulation when possible. Decrease television, overwhelming environments, number of children playing together at one time, and large family gatherings. When necessary that these events take place, keep the child close, explain to him that he may become stressed and he can come to you when needed.
  5. Do Time-In instead of Time-out. Rather than sending the stressed out and scared child to the corner to think about his behavior, bring him into to you and help him to feel safe and secure. Internally this will then permit him the ability to think about his actions. Though time-in is not a time for lecturing, it will allot your child an opportunity to calm his stress and then think more clearly. Another effective key is to let the child decide how much time-in he needs.

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