Parenting children with trauma is tough. Parenting children with trauma with traditional parenting methods is impossible. Want to know how I know? Because I have been trying it for 2 years and it was NOT WORKING AT ALL.
I was raised like most people that your parent’s word is law and you listen and obey, enough said. You definitely don’t talk back and if you did you would be punished. You certainly wouldn’t even consider kicking or hitting them. But we were raised in stable homes and given what we needed. Children with traumatic pasts did not have that same stability. They didn’t have examples of healthy adults to trust. They don’t know what a safe relationship with an adult looks like. They deal with big pain every day and really big shame. Their misbehavior most of the time is not pre-thought and malicious it comes from deep within them a place of fear and shame.
So, if I am not going to parent her with traditional methods of parenting then how do you parent a child with trauma to help them feel safe, loved and learn rules and boundries? Well in some ways I am still figuring that out. I thought if I didn’t parent the way I had learned she would never behave or learn or be respectful. I am finding that my method is not working and I am not meeting her where she needs me most. So, I sought out the help of an amazing parenting coach Christine Moers who gave me some fabulous encouragement and tips on parenting children with trauma I love her youtube posts and her blog posts about parenting.
I began to implement them into my home and what an amazing transformation I have seen. No, the tantrums have not stopped and the screaming is still ear piercing at times but I feel so much calmer and in control and the funny part about it is that it is going against everything I have ever learned. She hasn’t changed but I HAVE. I needed to look outside the box and see that there are other ways to do things.
So what is so different? First I am not reacting to her behavior like I used to. The calmer and quieter I am the shorter the tantrums are. I am not taking her tantrums as a personal attach on me but as a cry for help from her. When I don’t react to her behaviors that are negative she seems to “pull out” of them faster. I am learning to empathize with her and feel her frustration and anxiety to help her calm down faster. I am not giving her consequences for behaviors I don’t believe are within her control at the time but are in the grasp of her PTSD or anxiety and fears. I am learning to give myself room for silliness in the midst of some of these tantrums I can find the silly and help her break the negative cycle she is in.
This is just the beginning but for the first time in months I feel such a weight lifted off of me. There is hope. As I take each day and add more skills in I see change. It isn’t easy. I have to go against all my preconceived notions of parenting to make this work but it is working!!