This Is My Struggle

You are in a dilemma…

What do you do? Where do you go? Who would believe you?

Your child just…peeped in the corner, hid food in your couch, went outside in the snow without a coat, ate 2 lunches at school after saying you did not feed him, yelled at you because you took her out to eat, was up wondering through the house during the night… and the list goes on.  These are not stories you share with the “soccer” moms at a game. Your husband (sister, mom, neighbor) is tired of hearing you complain. Your friends avoid you.

You have no answers! It seems as if you child is intentionally trying to drive you crazy.

Welcome to the world of parenting a child with early relational trauma, trauma from abuse, neglect, and attachment disruptions. Your child may have entered your family through foster care, adoption, kinship care, divorce, incarceration, or separation. Now, you are seeking answers. Search the following pages, read the resources, and contact us for more information. There is hope, there are answers, keep looking.

Who Is This Child?

Let us explain why these children behave as they do. Let us explain why these children behave as they do.

Questioning Parents

Facing so many questions, families need signposts to assure them they are traveling in the right direction.

Questioning Professionals

Learn the support and resources these families and never link the child’s disruptive behaviors to the parenting skills.

Who is this child?

Let us explain why these children behave as they do. Let us explain why these children behave as they do.

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!

How do you know if you child has a N-IWM?

  1. 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.”
  2. Asks: “Why don’t you send me back?” “Why did you adopt me anyway?”
  3. 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 world, 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 ensure” 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.)

Questioning Parents

Facing so many questions, families need signposts to assure them they are traveling in the right direction.

These children are challenging!

Normal parenting techniques are ineffective, at best. They are likely to produce more negative behaviors. Nurturing a child who reacts to love instead of responding is confusing. Many parents care for a child for years without understanding “why” he behaves (reacts) the way he does. Our desire is to explain the “whys” and “hows” for healing.

Trauma from neglect, abuse, and abandonment:

Foster and adoptive children lose their first and most important relationship-their primary caregiver-usually mom. They may be removed at birth or years later. Additionally, they may experience neglect and/or abuse, or abandonment. These children must face lose, grief, shock, anger, fear, sadness, and a move to a foreign environment. This new environment consists of different parents, siblings, customs, language, food, orders, and values. These children may be questioned by social workers, police, judges, teachers, and the new family. They may be encouraged to betray their family, watch their parents being arrested, view their siblings being moved to different homes, and be overwhelmed with worry and fear. They may endure years of visits with their birth family and then never say goodbye. Controlling adults cause their family pain. These children may feel as if silence about their family’s problems were preferred to this horror.

Trauma derails development:

The child’s healthy development is derailed with each trauma. Developmental milestones cannot be reached when a child is living in stress and fear and/or when a child does not have an emotionally responsive and attuned caregiver. Imagine the developmental holes a child may have from multiple moves with changes in caregivers and experiences that include abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Trauma impairs attachment, biology, affect regulation, dissociation, behavioral regulation, cognition, and self-concept” (Cook et al., p. 392). Explore free online courses at www.childtraumaacademy.com.

Honeymoon is quickly over:

Children with a history of early trauma and attachment disruptions may not respond to normal parenting..

When a foster/adoptive child enters a new placement, the family may desire and expect a reciprocal relationship with this child. The child is limited by his internal beliefs about himself, others, and the world developed via experiences. Negative beliefs are a natural outcropping of traumatic experiences. Why should this child view himself as lovable? trust others? or see the world as a safe place to live in? He brings his survival skills to this new family which were needed in previous environments to be safe but may now be unhealthy, dangerous, illegal, and/or dysfunctional. The child identifies these behaviors as “normal.” Relationships and life styles in this new home may be unfamiliar, causing the child to experience overwhelming fear.

Quest for answers:

Parents begin the quest to find the answers in how to parent this child. Many times they are told to add more structure or to be more lenient. The parents may be given sticker charts to aid in compliance, told to give the child more rewards, or make more rules that must be enforced. Parents do not know where to turn for the answers. They tire in this quest and may watch their child’s behavior further disintegrate. Professionals may offer behavior plans without acknowledging the mental health needs of the child.

Families need signposts to assure them they are traveling in the right direction (Brooks, Allen, & Barth, 2002)

Need for direction:

Brooks, Allen, & Barth (2002) referenced adoption as embarking on a journey into the unknown, a feeling of uncertainty, particular with children who have prenatal drug or alcohol exposure and histories of abuse and neglect. Researchers recommend signposts for families to assure them that they are traveling in the right direction. This lifelong journey requires knowledge, skill, commitment, and dedication due to the special needs of most foster and adoptive children.

Questioning Professionals

Learn the support and resources these families and never link the child’s disruptive behaviors to the parenting skills.

Criticism During Successful Parenting

Parents are frequently judged by their child’s behavior. We all have heard the old adage, “Cannot you control your child?” when a child misbehaves. Then, friends, family, and professionals attribute the child’s actions to poor parenting skills. Foster and adoptive parents suffer from the same criticisms even though they may be successfully parenting their birth children.

Parenting Failure

When foster and adoptive parents undergo criticism from outsiders, this adds another layer of “being a parenting failure” because the child projects negativity towards the parent daily. It does not matter if it is well-meaning, criticism and evaluative statements perpetrate the downward spiral. It is imperative for professionals to find means to support this family.

Disruptive Behaviors vs. Parenting Skills

To support these families, the child’s disruptive behaviors must not be linked to the parenting skills. Instead, use this site to develop concrete means of support and resources to stabilize the family.

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