Skip to content

Step 2: How Did Your Child’s Trauma Impact THEM??

January 30, 2017

Step 2 in the Super-Powers of Adoptive Moms and Dads.  How did my child’s trauma impact their brain?  (In step 1, you learned about trauma and the brain, just in general.  In this step, you start to personalize it to your child.  Theory becomes personal.  This can be hard!!!)

As you learn about how trauma impacts the brain, it’s important to start personalizing that information and weaving it into your child’s story.  Was your child raised in a securely attached home, only to have tragedy impact their parent’s ability to care for them when they were older?  Was your child’s birthmother a victim of severe domestic violence while your child was in utero?  Did you child experience severe neglect in their first months of life, rarely held, snuggled, or even looked at?

Is this your first time reading about the 4 Super-Powers of Adoptive Moms and Dads?  If so, head over to the article where I give an overview of these amazing super-powers and how they developed.  The 4 Super-Powers of Trauma Mamas (and Dads too).

how-did-early-trauma-impact-your-childs-brain

Think first about the developmental level they were when the trauma began.

In utero?  First few months of life?  Toddler?  Preschooler? School age child?  And think about the areas of the brain that were developing at that time.

Children who experienced in utero trauma and early early life trauma often have brainstem dysregulation, which leaves them chronically dysregulated.  Even their body systems like sleep, appetite, and heart rate can be irregular.  These children can have negative beliefs that are focused on how bad they are or if they even exist, or have the right to exist.  You are having a hard time staying connected to this child because they are literally almost always dysregulated.  This child can be extremely impulsive and seems to be operating at warp speed without using their thinking brain much to help them make decisions.

Children who experienced trauma before they had words or explicit memories may have an overdeveloped amygdala/limbic area of the brain.  The amygdala helps the brain know if your are safe or not safe.  It is scanning for danger four times PER SECOND.  When children live in a chronically unsafe environment (due to neglect, abuse, or other trauma), their amygdala remains on high alert.  It determines they are NOT SAFE more than SAFE and this keeps their system in a chronic state of fight/flight.  This was necessary for survival, but it also left them with an overactive amygdala that is oriented toward the catastrophic.  The brain develops around what it uses the most, so if the most used part of your child’s brain was the part that determined the environment was unsafe, well….that’s the part that gets developed.  These children may be constantly in a state of fight/flight- hypervigilent, always assuming the worst.  They have great fears about safety.  They are easily triggered by the most innocuous things because their overactive amygdalas believe everything is a threat.  This child might have beliefs about how they are not safe, or that the world is not safe, or nobody can protect them.

Or maybe your child experienced profound neglect in those early years and lacked the necessary adult/child interaction that babies need to help their nervous system mature.  Your child might be extremely shut down, and when they get stressed they dissociate instead of acting out.  This child learned that the world was so unsafe, their only refuge was to go away in their mind.  They might not have a lot of clear negative beliefs that they can articulate because the dissociated mind isn’t thinking.  Whether they can articulate them or not, their negative beliefs are about how they are bad, unsafe, and will always be left.  A parent who is physically present isn’t enough.  What about the parent who was too depressed, too checked-out, or too high on drugs? A child left without adult face-to-face interaction experiences adults as always leaving them.  They may go back and forth between the fear that they will be left again AND just giving up, hoping to be left again because they are sure it’s inevitable anyway.

How did your child’s trauma impact THEM?

Notice your child’s negative beliefs about themselves.  Notice their triggers.  Make a list.  Compare this to what you know about their trauma.  And remember to include traumas that might not seem like traumas to you.  Witnessing domestic violence (or hearing it in another room) is just as damaging- and maybe more so- than experiencing violence.  Not getting enough eye contact or presence from a parent- even one who was physically present.  Even coming to your family was a trauma.  It’s easy to overlook this because it was a joyful occasion for you, and your child might even have seemed happy.  But when they came to your family, they lost something- even if that something wasn’t very good.  And their brain had to be on high-alert until it figured out that you were OK.  Because their brain didn’t know you were OK.  Most adults weren’t.  You had to prove that you are.

It might be frustrating that I’m not telling you how to fix this.  Remember!  This is just step two!!!

And this four-step cycle isn’t necessarily about healing your child’s trauma- though it is a non-negotiable piece of it.  When you develop these super-powers, you enable yourself to stay more present and regulated in the face of your child’s dysregulation.  Meeting dysregulation with regulation is crucial.  Is it enough?  Not always.  Is it necessary?  Yes.

In the next two weeks I’ll tackle step 3 (understanding how you participate in the trauma tornado) and step 4 (heal thyself).

I’m also plotting out an online parenting course that will give us the opportunity to really dive into these four steps.

There.  I said it.  It’s no longer just an idea, one I can choose to abandon.  I’ve put the idea out to you, and will hold myself to it!  I’m imagining a multi-week course- possibly starting in the spring- focused on these four steps and helping you put them into action.  What do you think?  ONLINE!!!  So anyone anywhere can access it! Interested?  If so, be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can stay up-to-date on my online offerings.

Sending you peace.  You’ve got this.

~

042014_1954_TraumaisCon1.jpg

 

 

 

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Don’t want to miss my next article?  Don’t forget to follow my blog!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Attachment Trauma Changes the Brain

January 23, 2017

A couple weeks ago, I revisited my observation about the amazing talents that adoptive parents have honed over the years of parenting a child with complex trauma.  These talents seem pretty universal among parents who are working to help their child heal from complex trauma, and honestly, they are pretty impressive.  So much so that I decided I think they are actually super-powers 🙂

attachment-trauma-changes-the-brain

A quick recap of these impressive super-powers that adoptive parents don’t intend to develop, but do so nonetheless.

  1. Understanding the neurobiological impact of trauma on the brain.
  2. Understanding how your child’s specific trauma impacted their specific brain.
  3. Understanding how you participate in the trauma tornado (what are your triggers?).
  4. Trauma Mama (and dads…), Heal Thyself. Do the work.  Face those triggers and heal.

How DOES trauma impact the brain??

I want to introduce you to a groundbreaking article written by the brilliant clinicians over at The Trauma Center, Justice Resource Institute, in Boston.  The Trauma Center is THE place researching and getting their research out to clinicians and the public.  WAAAAAY back in 2005, they published “Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents,” kicking off a new era in how we treat children who have experienced early attachment trauma and loss.  The full text is about 40 pages, but you can click HERE to read the shorter, nine-page summary.

The Trauma Center identifies SEVEN domains of impairment in children with complex trauma.  SEVEN.  Did you learn that in your adoptive parent training?  That your child’s experiences prior to adoption would impact their entire system?  Most parents I work with were pretty blindsided by this when their child came into their family.

7 Domains of Impairment

  1. Attachment
  2. Biology (medical problems, sensory integration, neurotransmitter imbalance, brain development)
  3. Affect (Emotion) Regulation
  4. Dissociation (including traumatic memory disintegration)
  5. Behavioral Control
  6. Cognition
  7. Self-Concept

Why does this matter?

Why do I think it’s helpful…maybe actually necessary…for parents of children with complex trauma to understand how trauma has impacted the brain and nervous system?  Well for one, if we understand what the problem is, we are more likely to be successful at fixing it.  If my car doesn’t turn on, do I need gas?  A new battery?  A new transmission?  I want to figure that out, or there could be a whole lot of (expensive) trial and error.

But also, with understanding comes compassion.  If our brain can figure it out, we can let go of some of the fear and bring in compassion.  Understanding is NOT excusing.  Understanding WHY our children are struggling doesn’t mean we excuse the behavior.  Understanding the why helps us know what to do to actually promote HEALING instead of just behavior management.

Here are a few of my previous articles that will help you understand just a bit more about how trauma has impacted your child’s nervous system:

Trauma Doesn’t Tell Time   

What’s Regulation Got To Do With It?

Trauma Is Contagious

When the Cycle is Broken

The Tragedy of Disorganized Attachment

 Attachment & the Impact of Developmental Trauma

Why Good Times can Suddenly Turn Bad

 

Keep on keepin’ on, moms and dads.  You’re doing amazing.

~

042014_1954_TraumaisCon1.jpg

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Helping Kids Calm

January 12, 2017

You’re probably looking to add just a few more tools to your toolbox when it comes to helping your kiddo stay regulated.  I know I always am!  Once your child has TOTALLY flipped their lid, there isn’t much to do besides wait and keep everyone safe.  But what about before that?  What are some things you can do to invite your child back into regulation before their lid gets completely flipped??

helpingkidscalm_wordpresspost

There are three primary ways we can help with regulation- brain, body, and relationship.  Using the brain by teaching cognitive skills and using our words to help the child calm is usually the ‘go to’ but is it really the most effective?  Nah, not really.  As children get more and more dysregulated, they literally lose access to the thinking parts of their brain.  All that good information stored in their thinking brain about how to stay calm?  They can’t find it.  And…..as children get more and more dysregulated, YOUR language and words become the most difficult thing for their brain to process!

SO.  Let’s look at the two other ways we can help kids regulate. Through the BODY and through RELATIONSHIP.

I’m hosting a webinar NEXT WEDNESDAY, January 18, that will go over these two strategies in depth.

We’ll be looking at ways to get your child’s body moving in a way that could bring about some regulation.  We are also going to look at ways your child’s sensory processing system may be contributing to their overall state of dysregulation, and I’m going to provide some concrete strategies to help your child feel better in their sensory environment.

And finally, I’ll remind you that relationship is really the ultimate regulator.  How can we really capitalize on relationship and use connection in moments of dysregulation, inviting our child to come back into regulation with us? I have a few ideas!!!

One More Exciting Detail

I’m offering this webinar at a super discounted rate to celebrate that I have FINALLY finished decorating my home office!!!  We’ve lived in this house for eight and a half years and my home office has been a bit of a disaster that entire time.  But I finally did it.  Emptied it out.  Painted.  New furniture.  Organized.  All with the intention of being able to do my videos and webinars from home.  In the future, this means more webinars!  But for today, it means a great discount for you.  It’s kinda like I want to throw a party to celebrate my new office and have as many friends come as possible, so I’m making a really amazing menu 🙂

Friends…come to the webinar!  What’s to lose really?  It will be live next Wednesday evening, but you don’t have to attend live (in fact, most people don’t…).  The webinar will be recorded and everyone who registers will receive a link to the recording.

Details:

When: Wednesday January 18, 2017; 8pm eastern, 7pm central, 6pm mountain, 5pm pacific.  OR WHENEVER because you will receive a recording!!!

Where: Your house!  No need to get dressed or get childcare!  You can wear your favorite jammies and sip wine or hot cocoa.  You can even sip loudly, because no one will hear you!!!

What: Helping Kids Calm: Using the body and relationship to support regulation

How Much: $12.  $12!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s it!!!!  For a one hour webinar with a therapist who specializes in working with children with complex trauma.  And for the recording!!!  This is a great deal.

How to Register: CLICK HERE.  You’ll be able to review the details and then register for the LIVE and RECORDED webinar.

See you then!!!

~

060814_1243_TheTragedyo1.jpg

 

 

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Rediscovering those Super-Powers {you’ve acquired them on this trauma-parenting journey…}

January 8, 2017

Almost four years ago…well, three and a half I guess…(side note- how is that EVEN POSSIBLE?!?!?!  It’s been almost four years!!!!) I blogged about the super-powers that I was seeing emerge in all the moms and dads I know who are parenting a child with a history of trauma.  Parenting young ones who have experienced chronic trauma inside their most precious relationship is..well….let’s just say….challenging.

Super-powers might seem a little cliché but I really think it’s apropos.  Other parents aren’t reading books like “The Body Keeps the Score” by leading trauma researcher, scientist, and clinician Bessel van der Kolk.  For real, I see this book recommended on a popular trauma parenting Facebook group all. the. time.  It’s not a parenting book!  It’s a book for people working in the field!!!  And it’s on your nightstand!!!!

i-parent-a-child-who-experienced-complex-trauma

Then there’s the way parenting a child with trauma forces us to look inside at our own delightfully messy selves.  I mean, all parents really should be examining their own history and triggers, contemplating how we are passing those triggers on in each generation….but MOST parents get to do this with children they grow themselves.  Children with their genes.  Children who, for better or worse, have been adapting to our own neuroses since the day they were born.  When you parent a child who experienced complex trauma in a different attachment relationship, the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit together quite so nicely.  My own history will ping off a child who experienced someone else’s parenting much different than it will ping off a child I raised from birth.  Neither are ideal, but the meeting of two vastly different nervous systems is much more likely to cause an explosion.

And these are the things parents of children who have experienced complex trauma are doing each and every moment they are parenting, whether they realize it or not.  They develop these super-powers not because they particularly want to or have some weird obsession with the brain and human development (although they might…).  They develop these super-powers because they HAVE to.  Because their kids NEED them to.  It is completely non-negotiable.

Those super-powers I identified way back when (really?  Almost four years ago?!?!?!):

  1. Understanding the neurobiological impact of trauma on the brain. For real.  My friends who aren’t adoptive parents don’t need to do this.  I mean, even I don’t need to this, except I swim in the neurobiological impact of trauma every day in the office….so yeah, I do need to do this.  But not in order to simply parent.  You pin infographics about PTSD.  Other parents pin new dinner recipes.  Well, you do that too…your kids gotta eat just like everyone else….but it’s next to an image of the brain and an explanation of the polyvagal theory.
  2. Understanding how your child’s specific trauma has impacted their specific brain. General theory is great.  Now apply it to your kid.  In your free time.  Between making dinner, going to work, talking with your child’s OT, getting all the right people to show up at your child’s ARD, and helping with the dreaded science fair project.
  3. Understanding how you are participating in what I have oh-so-cheesily named the ‘trauma tornado.’ When your child is triggered (you figured out their triggers in step 2…), how are YOU triggered?    Do you always react calmly and with much thought and consideration??  No?  Well, then your stuff is getting triggered.  Let’s find out.  Cuz yeah, that’s fun.  Going digging in our own histories to find our weakest spots and earliest hurts.  Party time.
  4. Trauma Momma- Heal Thyself. Knowing our triggers is a HUGE part of this journey, but knowing isn’t healing.  Healing looks different for everyone, but how can we notice our triggers, call a pause, calm our own dysregulation, and then jump OUT of the aforementioned trauma tornado?  Because we can’t wait for our kids to do those things.  And if we don’t, we just keep swirling around in a big ole mess of tornado-style dysregulation.

 

I’m assuming I have a reader or two who wasn’t around back in 2013 and also hasn’t read back through all of the archives on this blog, so I thought it might be worth it to resurrect these ideas.

Need help honing your super powers?  Stick around…I’m trying to do just that.

Here’s to a 2017 that’s better than 2016….

~

060814_1243_TheTragedyo1.jpg

 

 

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

It’s OK to be Human, Mama…

January 2, 2017

When my son was 11-months-old, I stumbled upon a group of women who would later morph into a small, weekly playgroup.  All of our kiddos were the same age- most within weeks of each other, and all within months.  For YEARS we met weekly.  These mamas kept me sane and got me thru those intense years of being a stay-at-home-mom.  When they babies went to kindergarten, we naturally began meeting less frequently…but we are still connected on our super-secret Facebook group and see each other in person a few times each year (we are scattered throughout our big city).

When we were weathering that stage of toddlerhood into preschoolers, I remember telling one of these dear ladies who was being super duper hard on herself for losing her cool at her sweet child… “Sometimes the natural consequence of being a total pain is that you get yelled at.”  This is especially true if your connected, attuned, attachment-focused mama has attempted to do all those things repeatedly (be connected, be attuned, be attachment focused….) and the annoying behavior still hasn’t stopped.

 

its-ok-to-be-human-mama-1Here’s the thing.

Yeah, we shouldn’t yell at other people.  Big people or small people.  We should try to keep our cool.  We should work hard on staying regulated because it’s better for our small people and it’s better for ourselves.

But we cannot take the human out of parent.

Try as we might, we just cannot.  And actually, we should not.

 

**********************

Once…probably about the same time period in my super fantastic son’s life (who is now almost 11)…I was walking thru the mall with my mom.  My parents live a plane ride away….I can’t really remember the occasion for the trip but my mom and I pretty much always go shopping when we are together.  Anyway.  My preschool child- maybe kindergardener, I really don’t remember…was a few steps ahead of us acting a fool.  I remember looking at my mom, not breaking my stride, nodding toward my son, and saying “People pay me for parenting advice.”  Oh, we laughed.

 

We are all struggling…attempting to do our best.  And sometimes our best isn’t super pretty.  Sometimes it’s yelling.  Sometimes it’s totally losing our cool.  Sometimes it’s chucking a granola bar at your kid at point blank range because you just bought a Costco size box of these granola bars that your picky eater SWEARS he loves and three days into this Costco size box of granola bars he looks at you sheepishly and says “Uh…I don’t really like those….”  (I mean, I’m totally making that up…)

It’s ok to be human.

It’s OK to mess up.  In fact, secure attachment is made up of just as much rupture and repair as it is getting it right in the first place.  The repair piece is important…we have to reconnect after a rupture in relationship.  A genuine, authentic “I’m sorry” and reconnection.

Rupture happens without us trying.  It’s inevitable.  We are human.  Our humanity, in all of it’s flawed wonderment, is exactly what our kids need.

It’s OK to be human.  Promise.

~

060814_1243_TheTragedyo1.jpg

 

 

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

{Free Podcast} The Importance of Parental Self-Care

December 5, 2016

I had the honor of being interviewed by author Kenneth A. Camp on the importance of parental self-care for parents raising children impacted by trauma- specifically adoptive and foster parents.

Podcast: The Importance of Parental Self-Care

Kenny and I met several years ago at an Adoption Knowledge Affiliates events.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of running into him at different adoption and foster care events and trainings, including Empower to Connect.  Knowing that this adoptive dad is a fierce advocate for connection-based parents (particularly Trust Based Relational Intervention), I eagerly agreed to the podcast interview!

Kenny has written a new book for adoptive and foster parents who use trust-based and connection-inspired parenting with their children.  After you listen to the podcast, check out his new book “Foster and Adoption Parenting: Authentic Stories that will Inspire and Encourage Parenting with Connection.”

If you listen to the podcast and want to spend even more time listening to me, you can join me for the webinar How to Talk About the Hard Truths in Adoption, happening THIS Tuesday, December 6!!!

So grateful for each of you,

~

042014_1954_TraumaisCon1.jpg

LIVE Webinar next Tuesday December 6th!  How to Talk About the Hard Truths in Adoption.  Can’t make it live?  All participants will receive a recording of the webinar to watch as often as you’d like!  CLICK HERE!!!

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

{Webinar} How to Talk About the Hard Truths in Adoption PART 2

November 30, 2016

Happy Wednesday!!!  I hope you are recovering from your holiday week and finding some semblance of a routine before Christmas blows that out of the water 😉

Part 2 of the webinar “How to Talk About the Hard Truths in Adoption” is happening next Tuesday December 6.  This is part 2 of 2 but don’t worry if you missed part 1!  When you register for part 2, you can choose the option to also receive the recording of part 1.  They don’t have to be watched in order so don’t stress about trying to watch part 1 before Tuesday!

As always, the webinar is offered LIVE but ALL participants will receive a link to the recording.  The webinars are offered in the evenings because that works best in MY schedule, but I completely get that it’s smack dab in the middle of bedtime, homework time, and/or dinner time for all of you!  I love to listen to webinars while I’m driving- obviously I don’t WATCH the webinar, I just listen to it like a podcast!

Over and over again, I get questions from adoptive parents about how to find the right language to talk to their kiddo about all the hard things that happened prior to their adoption.  For lots of reasons (explained all in part 1!!) I believe strongly in the importance of being age-appropriately honest with our children about their stories, but so often we just don’t know what words to use!  We’ll address some of the toughest topics (drug use, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment, etc…) and not only will I give suggestions on actual language to use, but I break it up by developmental stage.  What you would say to your 5-year-old will be different than your 15-year-old!

Sound good?  Head over to www.HardTruthsWebinar2.EventBrite.com for all the details and to register.

I’m so grateful tonight for the technology that allows me to connect with parents all over the world in all different ways.

~

042014_1954_TraumaisCon1.jpg

LIVE Webinar next Tuesday December 6th!  How to Talk About the Hard Truths in Adoption.  Can’t make it live?  All participants will receive a recording of the webinar to watch as often as you’d like!  CLICK HERE!!!

Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

%d bloggers like this: