Traumaversaries. It may not be a word you are familiar with. It may not be actually be a “real” word, but to anyone parenting or working with children who’ve been impacted by trauma, they are very real.
Trauma comes in many forms.
Really, the list could go on and on.
And those traumatic events impact children. They carry with them the impacts of trauma, some for a lifetime.
How Trauma Impacts Children
Sometimes children were old enough to remember the traumatic events. Often, they were not. But the impacts of trauma are there...no matter how old they were.
Even if a child was not old enough to remember, their bodies will remember the feelings associated with those losses and traumatic events. And when it is the anniversary of the event, those feelings are even more likely to arise. Hence, the reason we use the word “traumaversary”.
One of the challenging things is that often teachers aren’t aware of the anniversaries. Sometimes even the parents aren’t aware. And LOTS of times, the children aren’t aware at all.
Triggers Adopted and Foster Children Face
One family I worked with came to me when their daughter was having a lot of behavioral struggles. It was December, and here in Minnesota there was already a lot of snow on the ground, not to mention cold, blustery temps.
Their daughter was adopted from Russia. She had come to their family when she was 6 years old. This was now the second winter season with them and it was the same pattern of behavior. The start of winter brought not only a flurry of snow, it brought a flurry of behavior. This lasted ALL winter.
After some talking, listening, and digging, we figured out the trigger. She had been removed from her home and her biological mother when she was 5 years old. And you guessed it...in December!
The weather in her hometown was similar to that of Minnesota - snowy and cold.
When she first went to the orphanage, they were getting ready for Christmas at the orphanage. Decorations, artwork made by their other children at the orphanage, a live, fragrant Christmas tree.
It all now made perfect sense.
Her behaviors here at her new home really kicked in when they got their Christmas tree. The smell of the pine needles triggered her emotions. Her loss, her grief, her abandonment.
While this insight didn’t erase those emotions during the traumaversary, it did give her parents important knowledge and a new lens to look at those behaviors.
They now had the insight to see what was behind the behaviors. They could remove some of the triggers, and could use new tools to help navigate through those triggers that were unavoidable.
As she got older, we began teaching her about her traumaversaries and those triggers and emotions that came with them. She is now a young woman. This winter here in Minnesota was a rough one. LOTS of snow. FRIGID temps. Her emotions crept in again in December, but she now has insight and knowledge to know what it is. She now has her own tools and strategies to walk through it without it tailspinning her.
As teachers, you very well may have students facing their own traumaversaries. You may be seeing behaviors...ranging from sadness, forgetfulness, acting out, change in attitude, etc. Those students need you to help them navigate through those.
How to Help a Child Who’s Been Impacted by Trauma
When you are working with or parenting a child who’s impacted by trauma, it’s important to be intentional. It’s important to meet the child right where he’s at, and in order to that it’s important to understand a child’s emotional age, attachment style, and trauma history.
When parents and teachers can work together as a team, and give a clear picture of the child so both parties can meet the child right where he or she is at, the child has the best chance at success.
This month in IMPACT - A Community of Trauma-Sensitive Teachers, we are diving into traumaversaries and loss. It’s a really important topic when it comes to students who’ve been impacted by trauma. We not only have a training video, we also have tools for you to use in the classroom, as well as a tool to use to partner with parents on helping your students.
Sometimes things take a turn when our adopted and foster kiddos are having another temper tantrum. A turn where suddenly we are no longer staying calm. A turn where we become the ones yelling. A turn where we become the one having the temper tantrum. That's when you need a plan to RESET.
When You’re The One Having the Temper Tantrum
There I was standing in my pantry, among all the cans of green beans and corn, feeling terrible. It had been one of those days. You know, the kind where you’re counting down the hours til bedtime, and it just can’t come soon enough.
My daughter had been having another temper tantrum, one of what seemed like a bajillion that day, and rather than staying calm, cool, and collected, I lost it. Soon, I was the one having the temper tantrum.
After I calmed down and my hubby made it home from work, I went into the pantry and cried. Sobbed, actually.
I replayed the situation over and over in my head. Knowing I should have handled it differently. Wishing I had handled it differently. Feeling like a bad mom. Sure I had made things even worse for my daughter.
Can you relate?
It's Not Your Fault
I’m pretty sure there’s not a single Adoptive or Foster Parent on the planet who hasn’t felt the same way. What I need to tell you is it’s not your fault.
Parenting an Adopted or Foster Child who is hurting, who has come with loss and grief, can be hard. Really hard. And as parents, we can get pushed to our limits. We are stretched. Busy. Tired and worn out. Throw another temper tantrum into the mix and it’s easy to see how it can be hard to stay calm.
We ALL lose it at times. We all have those times we wish we would have handled it differently. We all have those days that we don’t feel like a great parent. Those days we even feel like a pretty crappy parent. Days we feel inept. Not sure how to handle behaviors. Questioning if we are even the right parent for this child.
If you have felt that way, I assure you that you are NOT alone!
Back to the pantry. I had a good cry, but did some good self-talk. Reminded myself that my daughter had been through so much in her short life. And with that loss and hurt came a lot of BIG emotions. It also came with the impacts of trauma. It was BIG stuff for sure!
I gave myself grace. I gave my daughter grace. Surely, we both needed it.
I pulled myself together and came out of hiding, ready to start over. To start fresh. To be honest, I was still counting down the time until bedtime, but I was ready to be a whole lot calmer.
When you’re in your spot where you wish you would have handled it differently…
4 Ways to Reset After a Temper Tantrum
You ARE a good parent. A really good parent. And you are exactly the parent your child needs!
If your adopted or foster child is having temper tantrums, check out our blog post about temper tantrums and anger here.
Last weekend, my son was home from college for a few days. He and his brother were reminiscing about funny moments from when they were little.
Fond memories that made them laugh. Out loud laughing, which was great for this Mama's heart.
"Remember that time with the rain boots?"
Yes, the time my kiddos were outside exploring and adventuring (their favorite thing to do) in their brightly colored rain jackets and their new rain boots.
All were having a good, until....
My middle son was in a great spot of mud. Wet, gooey, sticky mud. A favorite kind of little boys.
But this time, he was STUCK. He tried moving, but no luck. Literally, stuck in the mud.
Do YOU ever feel like that on this journey of Adoptive & Foster Parenting? I sure did.
There were times I felt like we weren't making any progress. Nothing I tried was working. I was tired. Exhausted. Worn out. And I just didn't know what else to do, what else to try.
So many Adoptive and Foster Parents have felt this way. It can become a vicious cycle.
You do have choices...even if it doesn't feel like you do.
When you're stuck, you can stay put, feeling helpless and hopeless. OR you can
Ready to move forward and get UNSTUCK? Here are 7 action steps you can take to help move you and your family to Happy & Healthy! https://www.tohavehope.com/action
School. It can be a struggle for lots of Adopted and Foster kiddos.
Sometimes your child will have fall out at school. Other times they'll hold it together...until they get home.
Your adopted or foster child's best bet at school is a strong parent/teacher partnership, with both sides understanding YOUR child, how those impacts of trauma look on him, and how to best meet your child right where he's at.
I've heard from parent after parent and teacher after teacher asking how best to help adopted and foster kiddos at school. There's so much new info about being trauma-informed, but what teachers want and need is the practical tools to help students who've been impacted by trauma.
I'm so excited to announce a brand new membership we have to help teachers create trauma-sensitive classrooms and partner with parents to best meet the needs of those students impacted by trauma - IMPACT - A Community of Trauma-Sensitive Teachers.
Here's the link to learn more about it and to get signed up.
Share it with the teachers in your life. Also...it would make a GREAT holiday for your child's teacher!
Imagine if every single classroom was trauma-sensitive and striving to help kids not only learn, but to feel safe and HEAL! Let's spread the word!
When we adopted 18 years ago, we had great support from family and friends. They were excited. They were happy for us. And they really supported us.
Not too long after our girls came home, things got a little chaotic. We suddenly had 6 kids aged 6 and under. My girls came with a lot of grief and struggles.
I was exhausted and lots of days was doing my best to just get us all to bedtime. Sound familiar?
We pulled in. Hunkered close to home. We kept our world small to help my girls adjust, and more importantly, connect and attach. It’s exactly what they needed. Things calmed down. A LOT.
But that’s when there seemed to be a shift. Family and friends didn’t understand the changes we made. They didn’t understand because they didn’t see the struggles. They didn’t live it.
I felt judged. Questioned. Doubted.
I felt ALONE.
I tried to explain. I tried to not take it personally. But it was hard. It was hurtful.
That’s when I sought out those on the journey. Those who truly understood.
When I was surrounded by that kind of support, I was able to let go of the hurt.
My family and friends loved me. They wanted the best for my family...and for me. They just couldn’t necessarily understand it. So I chose to give grace.
It wasn’t always easy, and I didn’t always do it well. And along the way we did lose some friends.
I needed to do what was best for my kiddos. 18 years later, I am confident I did that. The well-being of my kiddos far outweighs what others think about me or my parenting.
Know that you are doing what’s best for your family! Surround yourself with the support of those who understand and give grace to those who don’t.
You got this...and you’re not alone!
The other day I was driving home from lunch with a friend and a billboard caught my eye. The top of it said "Fear is contagious."
How true is that?
As Adoptive & Foster Parents, our minds can race with questions. You know, those questions of doubt and fear.
What if my child doesn't securely attach?
What if my child grows up and wants to be with her birth family and not us?
What if I'm messing things up for my child?
When we are in that spot, those questions can spiral. They keep coming. And the doubt and fear increase more and more.
And that is not good...not good for us as parents, not good for our kiddos, not good for our families.
Here's the 2nd part of that billboard that said Fear is contagious....but so is HOPE!
Hope is what can squelch those doubts and fears. And once we start having hope, it is easier to be hopeful, easier to see the hope. And easier to share the hope...with other adoptive and foster parents, with our significant others, and with our children.
So both fear and hope are contagious. Which do you want more of? Decide and then focus there.
If you're in need of some hope, I will share mine with you. Hope for you and hope for your family.
You've got this!!
Trauma. It's something that you hear a lot about these days.
For our adopted and foster kiddos, it's not just a trend. Not just a buzz word. It's real. VERY real.
Most people can understand that kiddos who experienced neglect or abuse have been impacted by trauma. And they have.
But not everyone can wrap their heads around the idea that ALL adopted and foster kiddos have experienced trauma.
Our adopted and foster kiddos were born to another mother. Attachment with her began in utero. They are wired for her. And when they came to us, there was a breach in that attachment. And that is trauma.
Whether they came to us at day 1, year 1, or year 10, they have come to us impacted by trauma.
When we can understand that, truly understand it, it will make a big difference.
The other day I was listening to an interview with an athlete talking about ENDURANCE.
Now, I'm not an athlete at all, but I certainly could relate to the conversation as an adoptive and foster parent.
This journey of parenting an adopted or foster child is a MARATHON, not a sprint. And the finish line feels pretty far off lots of times.
Ever get the comment, "I don't know how you do it!"
Guess what? There were plenty of days I thought, I can't do this anymore. But, I did it anyway.
It's a long journey, and that's gong to take ENDURANCE, my friend. So you need to get the fuel and energy to sustain you.
Here's how I start and end each day to help my endurance. (Okay, there are some days I don't do them, but every day is my goal).
1. Start your day with GRATITUDE.
I have a journal that I keep by my bed. Before I begin the crazy busyness of the day, I jot down 3 things that I'm grateful for. Some are big, some are little. It might be a good night's sleep, it might be my comfy sweatshirt. Some days it's the sunshine.
Research shows gratitude can have a great impact on our mindset. And that is a powerful, positive way to begin each day.
2. End your day with FINDING THE GOOD.
At the end of the day, before you fall asleep, look back on your day and find the good in the day.
There are days, the good comes easily and quickly. And there are days when it can be challenging to find the good. It might be the littlest thing, but there is good.
Maybe it was your morning coffee. Maybe it was you made it til bedtime.
Focus on that good. Let that be your thought as you drift on to sleep. It can help you sleep better, and can help you start tomorrow in a better spot.
They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. So I challenge you to begin the next 21 days with gratitude and end each of them with finding the good.
Here's to the next 21 days!!
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the horrific tragedy that happened on Sept. 11th. The photos fill my Facebook feed, the newscasts reflect.
For many, it brings them right back. The date. The pictures. The stories. Flashbacks.
But so often the triggers aren't as obvious. Aren't predicted. It could be a smell. A memory. Something we can't even put our finger on.
That happens with our adopted and foster kiddos too.
Lots of time what looks like behavior, or sounds like crabbiness, actually is a response. They've been triggered. And lots of times we aren't even aware of the trigger.
When we dig in and identify what triggers our kiddos, we can better help them steer clear of those triggers...or respond better to them.
Yesterday, I spoke with an adoptive parent whose child is now a young adult. August was a time of some pretty big anniversaries for her child. It was the month she was adopted...and moved to a new country, with a new family, a new language.
After a pattern of August being a time a challenging behaviors, Mom realized that it was a trigger for her daughter. And parenting with that information changed things a lot. It didn't take away all the behaviors, and it didn't erase all the triggers, but things were a lot calmer.
That's a win!
This year, her daughter is living on her own. Again, August brought up a lot of emotions for her. But...this year the daughter was aware of the triggers. She was knew that a lot of it was connected to those anniversaries. And she was able to remind herself of that and had a place to hang those feelings.
That's a win!
So I challenge you to know your child's anniversaries. Watch for the triggers. Keep a journal handy and jot them down when they come up. And teach your child about them along the way.
The other day I was looking at a magazine while waiting for an appointment. The headline read "How Do You Recharge?"
Recharge. It's so important as adoptive and foster parents, but there are times we let it go.
I remember when it felt impossible. At the end of the day, I crashed. I was exhausted. And to find the energy to recharge just seemed impossible.
But...I now know that was a mistake.
Recharging is important. This journey of adoptive and foster parenting is a marathon. We need to refuel and recharge along the way...or we'll never make it.
A week long vacation on a beach or in a hotel room by yourself probably isn't feasible. You need to find ways to recharge your batteries. Even little things can do the trick.
Find some ways to recharge. Make a list of them...so when you're totally worn out, you don't have to try to think of ways to recharge.
Watch a movie, curl up with a good book, connect with a friend, enjoy a cup of coffee on your porch.
Do it regularly. Do it often. It's important.