These children are challenging!
Children with a history of early trauma and attachment disruptions are challenging. Their behaviors are hard to understand, their logic seems illogical, and their escalations unmanageable. Parents often ask why doesn’t their child learn from mistakes or consequences. The easy answer (but hard to digest) is that the child is learning from the mistakes and consequences-the children are learning that they are bad, parents cannot be trusted, and the world is unsafe. This is the Negative Internal Working Model (N-IWM) that Bowbly researched more than 50 years ago. One new parenting challenge is helping the child change the internal working model.
Children with a traumatic history may have a combination of six Trauma Disrupted Competencies (TDC). In addition to the N-IWM, the children may have forms of developmental delays (holes in develop), short emotional fuses, lack permanency and constancy, lack physical regulation, and are sensory defensive. Bundle these six TDCs together, you have a very complex child to parent. Where to start? That’s where we can help!
- States: “I am bad.” “You need to get rid of me.” “You don’t care about me.” “I am not really your child.”
- Indicates: the parent cannot be trust, is unsafe, does not care for the child adequately, and is not “good enough.”
- Asks: “Why don’t you send me back?” “Why did you adopt me anyway?”
- Behaves: Doesn’t take care of personal items, lacks boundaries, does not obey simple demands, can be dangerous to self and others
Let us explain why these children behave as they do:
Imagine…having your first, most important relationship with MOM disrupted when you were an infant or toddler. No attuned and insightful caregiver to feed and care for you, enjoy your presence, tuck you in at night, smile at your first steps, or send you off to school with the promising of being there at the end of the day. The most important person, your mom, may have been emotionally unavailable. Even worse, she may have been the sources of (or tolerated) your neglect or abuse. Beliefs developed that caused you to view yourself as worthless (or bad), your mom and other adults as untrustworthy, and the world as unsafe. In attachment terms, you lacked a secure base and safe haven-the ability to feel loved and cared for-enough to venture out into the w
orld, and a safe haven to return to for comfort and security. Without this safety and security, infants and toddlers do not navigate developmental stages cohesively, learn to use secondary emotions to “insure” safety, and use immature perceptions to understand physiology, relationships, and environmental events. Of course, parenting this child may be extremely difficult. (Not to mention, some families have more than one child with early trauma in their family.)