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Stop Fixing. Be.

July 22, 2015

Fixing is for things that are broken.  Fixing happens when the fixer takes on the role of expert and does what the fixer knows needs to be done.  Fixing means something is wrong and we have to do something active to make it right.

People aren’t broken.  Children aren’t broken.  Your child isn’t broken.  You aren’t broken.

If we sit firmly in the belief that we are always moving toward greater integration, then we can sit firmly in the belief that people don’t need to be fixed.

What do people need?  Relationship.  Safety.  Invitations.

When I started to take this approach in the therapy room, I didn’t really DO anything different.  What was different was my way of being.

When I started working with a therapist who took this approach, she didn’t really do anything different.  What was different was her way of being.

Our brains are realllllly smart.  We can tell when another person has an agenda just by being in their presence.  Stephen Porges calls their ‘neuroception’ or perception that happens below the level of conscious awareness.  If I enter into the presence of another person- a very well-meaning person- who wants to help me be ‘fixed,’ my neuroception knows this.  I know that this person has an agenda.  I know that this person believes there is something wrong with me (because only things that are wrong need to be fixed).  I know that this person is operating from a sense of fear, because having an agenda flips on the amygdala, and now my neuroception says “this isn’t safe.”  And you know what doesn’t happen when we are with someone who has their amygdala switched on?  We don’t get ‘fixed.’

When we are in the presence of someone whose whole being is communicating, verbally and non-verbally, the truth that I am fine just the way that I am, then ironically the possibility of change begins to open up.  It is only when we begin to believe that truth about ourselves, that we are fine just the way we are, that the possibility of change begins to open up.  Our children can’t believe they are fine just the way they are if they know we are trying to fix them.

This doesn’t mean we stop helping, stop therapy, or release boundaries around behaviors that are hurting them or others.  It doesn’t necessarily mean we DO anything different at all.  But we may need to BE different.  Soothe our own fears, leave agendas behind, be with, and provide an invitation toward greater integration.

~

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

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

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.

Trauma is Contagious

June 25, 2015

***This article was originally posted on 04/21/2014***

Like the common cold, influenza, or measles, trauma can actually pass from person to person- airborne and invisible. You don’t have to be exposed to the original source in order to become infected with measles- you can catch it from being exposed to a person with measles. The same is true for trauma.  You don’t have to be exposed to the original trauma in order to feel and ‘catch’ it’s impact.  This isn’t news to you if you’ve been parenting a child with a history of trauma. Overtime, you have started to feel as traumatized as your child. You might think you’re imagining this or developing phantom symptoms. But you’re not- trauma is contagious.

iS TRAUMA CONTAGIOU

Remember from What’s Regulation Got to Do With It that our autonomic nervous system contains the proverbial brakes and accelerator of our body and emotions. Our sympathetic nervous system is the accelerator- amping us up by activating stress hormones and chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline, increasing respiration, increasing heart rate – while the our parasympathetic nervous system is the breaks – slowing us down by releasing calming hormones and chemicals like GABA and serotonin, decreasing respiration, and decreasing heart rate. All day long our sympathetic nervous system gets activated and then our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to bring us back into balance.

When our nervous system is wide open, we are able to tolerate the fluctuations in our autonomic nervous system without difficulty. We can manage stress, deal with frustration and difficulty, and be available for relationship with our kids, spouses, and friends.

Enter one traumatized kiddo (or two, three, four, five etc…)

People who have experienced trauma have a closed and reactive nervous system. They have a harder time managing stress and frustration. Their overactive amygdala believes there is danger when there isn’t. It’s your child’s closed nervous system that can explain all their challenging behaviors.

The thing about nervous systems- is that we match each other.

Think of the last time you were stressed. And your child was stressed and acting out with whatever their acting out behavior of choice is. Your stressed body responds to their stress by doing what? Usually not becoming more calm. We keep upping the ante. Your child escalates, you escalate, your child escalates further, you escalate even MORE. (Don’t worry- this happens to all of me. Me too!).

Our nervous systems match each other. We match each other in the short term- like yesterday morning when you were late, and lunches weren’t packed, and homework wasn’t put away and all of the sudden everyone is yelling. And we also match each other in the long term. So the two years that you’ve been living with a traumatized, close nervous system who vaguely resembles your child? You’ve caught the trauma and now you are closed and reactive TOO.

When families are in crisis, when the child’s trauma is too out of control, when the behaviors have escalated….the first thing to do is to decrease the level of trauma in the parent’s system. This seems counterintuitive. This seems impossible. How on earth can we decrease the trauma in the parent when the child is spinning out of control?

It’s definitely really really really hard. And really really really unfair. To become calm and centered while a tornado is spinning around you? Hard. But not impossible. Not only is it not impossible but it’s imperative. Imagine you caught a life-threatening illness from your child. Can you help your child heal while you are critically ill? No. Does it seem counterintuitive to focus on your own health while your child is ill? Yes. But a sick momma can’t heal a sick baby (or teen).

Trauma Momma. Heal Thyself.

~

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

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

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.

Of Course…Of Course…Of Course

June 22, 2015

These two simple words might actually have the power to have a profound impact on your relationship with your kiddo.  Or at the very least, they may have the power to you feel calmer during those moments of absurdity that come with parenting a child of trauma.  Because you have already gotten REALLY good at understanding how trauma impacts your child’s brain (it is one of the trauma momma superpowers, after all!) then the words “Of Course” make perfect sense.

OF COURSE hearing the word “NO” sends your child into a Level 4 rage.

OF COURSE being asked to do a simple chore causes your child to completely shut down.

OF COURSE your child screams his head off because dinner is in four minutes, not RIGHT THIS SECOND.  (I mean, you are actually plating it and getting it on the table, but it’s just not fast enough).

OF COURSE your child sabotages his brother’s birthday party.  OF COURSE he sabotages his OWN birthday party.

OF COURSE your child longs to go back with the parents who hurt her in incomprehensible ways.

OF COURSE your child is climbing out of her car seat while you go flying down the highway.

The world is coherent.  We are always moving toward coherence.  Behaviors makes sense.  Always.  Even when it doesn’t make any sense, it makes sense that it doesn’t make any sense.

Of course.

of course

Try it now.  Think of the most absurd thing that’s happened in your house today.  Bring that picture to mind.  Say to yourself “Of course.”

The words “Of course” inherently bring order and coherence.  They instantly calm the amygdala…even if just a little.  They help you find that “proverbial pause” that is so important before you respond.  “Of course” helps you find compassion and understanding.  “Of course” brings coherence into your own body, which then allows you to approach your child with coherence instead of chaos.

I’m not saying this will solve all your problems and most certainly it will not stop your child raging in the moment.  Though you may find that the rage ends sooner because you’ve stopped pushing against it.

Want to know another secret?  You can try this with EVERYONE!!  OF COURSE your best friend was hurtful when she said that.  OF COURSE you felt hurt!  OF COURSE your spouse got defensive and stormed off.  OF COURSE your child’s teacher has no idea what to do with a traumatized student.

I had the extreme good fortune of spending four days with Kent Hoffman training to become a Circle of Security Parent Educator.  He suggested giving these two simple words- Of Course- to parents who are struggling to understand their child’s behaviors.  A colleague at my table leaned over and said “You use those words a lot when you are training parents.”  I thought for a moment- she’s right. A parent will raise their hand and either tell me some outrageous thing their child did, or they’ll ‘confess’ to me the way they reacted to that outrageous behavior.  I can hear myself in my head now….I say “Of course.  Of course they did that.  Of course you reacted that way.”  With complete understanding and compassion.  Without any judgment.  The other week I met with a mom who was lamenting some particularly bizarre thing her son was doing.  I caught myself saying “Of course he {insert bizarre behavior here}.”  Those words DO bring coherence into the room.  They take the edge off.  This momma breathed a heavy sigh, looked at me with heavy eyes, and leaned back into my couch.  Yes, of course.

{Side note…after I titled this blog entry, I spent the rest of the day hearing Cake’s version of Doris Day’s “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” in my head.  “Of course, of course, of course.”}

~

 

 

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

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

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.

Why is He SOOO Controlling?!

June 13, 2015

***This post was originally published on 08/19/2013***

So far, I’ve tackled food issues and lying as two of the top issues the pull momma’s into the trauma tornado. Most of our kids have food issues, most of them struggle with lying…and most of them are extremely controlling. I can only think of one behavior that is harder for mommas…and that’s manipulation. I’ll address manipulation a different day, promise! Just like I did with both food issues and lying, we will first figure out how controlling behavior fits in the trauma tornado, and then we will identify the four super powers that trauma mommas need when parenting a child of trauma and dealing with controlling behavior.

How does controlling behavior fit into the trauma tornado?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a few months, you’re getting good at identifying the negative belief that is underneath your child’s behavior. Sometimes it is tricky to figure out exactly what that negative belief is. But controlling behavior? That one is easy! Controlling behavior is always driven by the negative belief that it is NOT safe to not be in control.

Remember Erik Erikson?

Well if you aren’t a psychology junkie, you probably don’t. Erik Erikson has been one of my favorite psychologists since high school. Never mind Freud- I’ve always loved Erikson’s theory on psychosocial development. Erikson says that during the first year of an infant’s life, their primary developmental task is to solve the psychosocial conflict of trust versus mistrust. A successful outcome to year #1 means that the infant now has trust. Trust in others “People who are bigger than me will make sure I’m OK. They will feed me, love me, and they certainly won’t scare me.” Trust in himself “Hey, I’m a great baby!” An infant who does not develop trust (due to relinquishment, abuse, neglect, misattunement, etc.) becomes that child who is controlling. They don’t trust others to do what needs to be done, and develops the belief that they’ve got to be in control if they are going to stay safe. This becomes an implicit memory developed through repeated experiences that teaches the infant that the adult cannot be trusted.

The Scared Child Looks Scary

The scared child believes “I must in control! It is not safe for me to not be in control!” and then looks scary to the adult (controlling behavior). The scared parent- scared of losing control in their family- may believe something like “Oh no you don’t! I’m in charge!” or “I cannot let a six-year-old run the show!” It feels bad to be controlled. It feels exceptionally bad to be controlled by your child! The scared parent behaves in much the same way as the scared child…by digging in their heels and being in control. “I will not tell you again!” or “If you don’t do what I say, there will be a consequence!” The tornado ensues because the scared parent now looks scary to the child, who in turn feels scared and behaves….well….in a more controlling way.

Remember your Super Powers

  1. Understand how Trauma Impacts the Brain. Last time, I suggested you enjoy the leisurely reading of “The Polyvagal Theory” by Porges. I’m sure you dove right in! When you’re done, you can dive into the Theory of Relativity or something else as easy to digest and comprehend. To summarize: Trauma puts a child’s nervous system into overdrive. More reactive and more likely to fall into fight/flight/freeze. The controlling child is a dysregulated and reactive child. If they can stay ‘in charge’ they stay at the top of the proverbial food chain, less likely to be hurt and more likely to get out of a bad situation if necessary. Remember…that this step doesn’t have to be rehashed over and over again. Once you understand how trauma impacts the brain, you can apply that in all situations.
  2. Understand how your child’s specific trauma impacted their specific brain. Did your child experience chronic neglect their first year of life? Has your child been in eight different foster placements- learning that adults come and go and frankly are just not to be trusted? Is your child’s nervous system always on the defense, with a hypervigilence that leads them to be in control? (As a side note, what is one of your go-to behaviors when you feel anxious and out-of-control? For most of us, it’s to control. And usually the thing we are controlling has nothing to do with what we are nervous about…but our own limbic brains have linked the two and we feel soothed by taking control of the situation. Think about it. It’s probably true for you too).
  3. How are you participating in the trauma tornado? Dr. Karyn Purvis talks a lot about how sharing control with a child is an excellent step toward building trust. Take a deep breath and take a step back. When is it OK to share control with your child? When is NOT OK to share control, but what you really need to do is help your child regulate, not fuel the fire with your own control? Lay a firm boundary that helps them know you are in charge (a message the children of trauma do need to believe…that the big people can keep them safe) while also focusing on the relationship, connection, and regulation. I’m thinking of a kiddo I have seen in my office who over time has slowly relinquished control of our sessions. How did that happen? We built relationship. I had firm boundaries. We shared power and control. I knew that if he was getting very controlling that he was getting very dysregulated. He needed a break. I needed to help him regulate. I learned the tricks to help this specific child regulate. What if I had just dug in my heels, refused to be controlled by him, demanded control and respect through force? I doubt we’d have even gotten to the trauma processing part of therapy- which also helped him decrease his need for control by processing the original trauma that led to his need to control in the first place. When you find yourself being trigged, slow down and jump OUT.
  4. Heal Thyself. Identifying where you are participating in the trauma tornado means you can soothe yourself and jump out of the tornado. Why is being controlled so triggering? What is so scary about sharing control with your child? Sharing control teaches trust and helps strengthen their pre-frontal cortex (thinking brain). It doesn’t circumvent your authority. Promise! The controlling child is hanging on by a thread. If you can soothe your own scared momma, you can help your child regulate.

And then do it again. And again.

Like all of our kiddo’s trauma based behaviors, this one takes a long time to begin to decrease. A really long time. Sometimes it’s impossible to jump out. Sometimes we are sick of being a trauma momma with super powers. We just want to be regular ole mommas. I know. I get it. We all have those days. Try again tomorrow.

~


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

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

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.

How a Trauma Momma Looks at Lying

June 12, 2015

***This was post originally published on 05/29/2013***

There are a hand-full of behaviors that seem to universally pull trauma mommas into the trauma tornado. Two weeks ago, I addressed food issues (specifically hoarding or over-eating) in your adopted child. Food can be a struggle even for the child who never went hungry, and when the trauma tornado spins around food, it’s especially hard to jump off. With food hoarding, we looked through the lens of where your child is in the trauma tornado, as well as identifying the four super-powers that trauma mommas develop.

What about lying?

Remember that the trauma tornado is the cycle of the scared child who looks scary to the parent, who then feels scared, and looks scary to the child.

The original trauma tornado article addressed lying very briefly. The scared child thinks and feels something like “It is not safe to tell the truth.” The child lies to their parents. This looks scary to the parents who think and feel something like “My child is a pathological liar” or “I cannot stand to feel manipulated or lied to” or even “Does she think I’m STUPID?!”. These scared thoughts and feelings lead to the parent acting scary (yelling, threatening, name-calling).

We have ALL been there. Even those of us who aren’t parenting trauma feel scared in the wake of our most feared behaviors.

Remember your Super Powers

  1. Understanding how Trauma Impacts the Brain. Have you read The Boy who was Raised as a Dog? Or the beginning of Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control? Both provide a pretty simple explanation of how trauma impacts the brain. Are you looking for something a little more dense? Try The Polyvagal System by Porges. WARNING: It’s scholarly, dry, and really hard to get through. The lucky part about step #1 is that once you start to understand how early childhood trauma impacted your child’s limbic system and emotional regulation system (feeling brain), as well as impacted their ability to access their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) at times of stress (oh and that your child lives under chronic stress so their ability to access the prefontal cortex is limited most of the time)….Well my point is that the good news is that you don’t have to reinvent step #1 over and over again. Once you understand the impact of trauma on the brain, you can apply that info to step #1 in all situations.
  2. Understanding how your child’s specific trauma has impacted your specific brain. This is the step where you look at your child’s history. Is there a history of abuse that could have easily been linked, in your child’s brain, to telling the truth? Is your child so afraid of losing at attachment that their first primal instinct is to preserve relationship and attachment (by denying the accused behavior) even if it means she is lying about her hand in the proverbial cookie jar? Is your child’s nervous system so defensive at all times that his first response to anything is to lie about it? Look at your child’s history and compare it to what you have learned in step #1. Look for their “negative belief” and understand that lying comes from a defensive nervous system ready to leap into fight/flight/freeze at any moment.
  3. How are you participating in the trauma tornado? The scared child thinks and feels something like “It is not safe to tell the truth.” The child lies to their parents. This looks scary to the parents who think and feel something like “My child is a pathological liar” or “I cannot stand to feel manipulated or lied to” or even “Does she think I’m STUPID?!”. These scared thoughts and feelings lead to the parent acting scary (yelling, threatening, name-calling). Closely examine your fears that are confronted when you are lied to. Feeling manipulated feels BAD. Feeling like your six-year-old thinks you are stupid feels BAD. Feeling like your nine-year-old has no regard for you or your relationship and therefore is happy to bold-faced lie feels REALLY BAD. I don’t deny any of these things. But this is the step where you examine your own place in the trauma tornado. This “scared mom” step is where you have to jump out if we are ever going to slow down this tornado.
  4. Heal Thyself. Now take a look at what you discovered in step 3 and consider how you can soothe yourself. How do you convince YOUR feeling brain that the lying isn’t about you. It’s not about the fact that your child thinks you’re stupid. It’s about the fact the manipulation is the only way your child knows to survive. It’s about how wants ARE needs in your child’s more regressed brain. It’s about how that activated nervous system is just always on edge and ready to defend…defend with a lie….even if there is nothing to defend. Consider ways you can replace your “scared mom” and you’ll be able to avoid that final “scary mom” step in the tornado.

This Takes Time and Practice

Don’t forget!! You’ll need to jump out of the trauma tornado what feels like a million times before you see the winds begin to slow down. And, you need support. Who do you call when you are having a hard time thinking clearly or identifying how you’re are participating in the trauma tornado? Every momma needs a village.

~


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

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

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.

So. Your adopted child hoards food.

June 11, 2015

***This post was original published in May 2015***

Such a complex, yet such a common struggle for adoptive families. So complex and so common that I’d say almost every single adopted child I work with has some sort of food ‘thing.’ They may not hoard or overeat or do anything that interrupts their daily life, but it’s there. This post was inspired but something I read online, but if you are one of my families and feel like this rings true to you, please know that this is because this is a very, very common struggle for adoptive families.

Maybe your child is very controlling about food.  Maybe she hoards food.  Maybe he is sneaking food.  Maybe she just is always hungry and always eating.   You find your chest clenching, your anxiety skyrockets.  You want to do what’s best for your child but this eating thing has got to get under control! Right?!

Remember how Trauma Mommas develop 4 Super Powers?

  1. Understanding the neurobiological impact of trauma on the brain. What happens to a child’s brain, nervous system, attachment, emotion regulation system, and sense of self when he spends months or years hungry? How does your body react when it believes it is starving? How does your brain respond to a slight dip in blood sugar level (a cue that you need to eat)? Know that hunger is registered in the brain stem, the most primal area of your brain. When your blood sugar dips, cortisol is produced. Brains that have lived in chronic fight/flight/freeze mode register that slight dip in blood sugar as “I’M GOING TO STARVE” as opposed to “It must be getting close to lunch time…my stomach is growling!”
  2. Understanding how their child’s specific trauma has impacted their specific brain. OK, so you are starting to understand the theory behind how hungry tummies impact the brain. But how does this translate to your child specifically? Look at your child’s history. Compare it to what you know about brains. Look at your child’s present life and find her common themes. Are they “I’m starving!” “If I don’t eat RIGHT NOW I never know when I’ll eat again!” “I don’t like this feeling so I will soothe myself with food.” “I don’t trust adults to take care of me so I must take care of myself, always making sure I have enough food to eat.” These themes help us peak into their past.
  3. How are you participating in the trauma tornado? Scared child (hungry! When will I eat again!) acts scary (hoarding, overeating). Scared momma (“The doctor is on my case about my overweight child!” Or maybe “My parents were restrictive and shaming regarding food and this is triggering my old stuff!” Or maybe “I can never satiate or make my child satisfied. I’m a bad mom!!”) acts scary (Restricts food). The cycle continues. Remember the step where you jump out of the trauma tornado? It’s at the “scared mom” step.
  4. Heal thyself. Is food a huge trigger for you? Do you love to prepare good, healthy foods and therefore watching your child gorge or hoard junk food is really a sore spot with you? Take what you learned in your journey to developing superpowers (steps 1-3), and sooth and heal yourself. This is how we jump out of the trauma tornado. If you can turn around those negative beliefs and feelings by reminding yourself  of steps one and two, you’ll respond in a way that is not scary to your child. “My child hoards food because his brain believes that every time he is slightly hungry he is actually starving to death. I will make sure my child knows that food is always available to her.”

OK, you want some practical advice now!

It’s impossible to blog about the perfect solution for your specific situation, unfortunately. But my #1 suggestion to families is to create a place- a drawer, a cupboard, a backpack, a container of some sort. Together, you and your child fill it with healthy foods that you both agree on. Allow your child unlimited access to this stash. If dinner is five minutes away…your child can still take from his snack drawer. If dinner was just over five minutes ago…your child can still take from her snack drawer. If you child fills up on the healthy foods you’ve agreed to put in his snack drawer and doesn’t eat dinner, no problem! It was healthy!! If your child raids the fridge at night, then give him a bedroom snack container. Or place a granola bar or an apple on her nightstand.

This may alleviate all your child’s food anxiety (though, probably not all). This may just alleviate it a tiny bit. It may not alleviate it at all. Oftentimes children with traumatic pasts will benefit from both therapeutic parenting and trauma healing. Look for a therapist that promotes and believes in attachment, as well as one trained in trauma healing, such as EMDR or Somatic Experiencing. Check out the therapist listing at the Attachment & Trauma Network– they are a great resource.  Combining therapeutic parenting with trauma therapy will help your child shift that negative belief of “I am starving!” or “I can’t trust adults to feed me.”  Sometimes therapeutic parenting isn’t enough- we need to get at that place in their brain where that belief is stuck.

~


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

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

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.

4 Super Powers of Being a Trauma Momma

June 10, 2015

***This post was originally published on 05/01/2013***

Parenting a child is so complex. It is hard enough even without the added complication of trauma. I work with mommas who are always second guessing their parenting decisions.  There are so many books, blogs, articles, so-called-experts on parenting…from Dr. Spock to Dr. Sears…parents have learned to turn off their intuition in order to listen to the expert (you know, the one who has never even met your kid!).  But trauma parenting? That takes parenting intuition and decisions to a whole new level.

In the past few days I’ve been percolating over what it means to be a trauma momma, and I’ve narrowed it to four super powers trauma mommas develop.  Of course there are more, but these are the four I’m able to articulate today.

4superpower

1.  Understanding the neurobiological impact of trauma on the brain.  It’s really crucial that trauma mommas have an understanding of what happens to a child’s brain when they experience a trauma.  This can be a pre-birth or during-birth trauma.  This can be the inherent trauma in adoption of an infant.  This can be abuse and neglect.  But step numero uno really needs to be for trauma mommas to recognize that trauma has impacted their child’s brain, and then to understand how trauma impacts the brain, nervous system, and how children manage stress and regulate emotions.  This is complex!  We’re talking about brain structures, brain chemicals, and a child’s inner working model (belief about themselves and the world), just to name a few!  How many non-trauma momma parents really spend time researching the brain on the internet?  Not too many!  They get to use the internet like a regular person, pinning cute photos to pinterest and sharing images of cats of Facebook!

2. Understanding how their child’s specific trauma has impacted their specific brain.  OK, once we know about how trauma impacts people in general, how do we take that information and apply it to my specific child?  How did my child’s loss of a trusting caregiver when he was an infant impact his nervous system and ‘inner working model’ and how does that translate to why he is so controlling?  Or why he lies?  Or why he never asks for help?  In this step, we start to develop true understanding and compassion for our child.

3. Next, trauma mommas need to determine where and how they are participating in the trauma tornado.  What fears or beliefs are getting activated when their child is lying, stealing, tantrumming, controlling, hitting, yelling, shutting down, zoning out, ignoring…or engaging in increasingly risky behaviors as teens get older (drinkings, drugs, sex…).  What is being triggered for the momma when her child resists true connection?  Or is lying and manipulative?  Is there a “You’re a bad mom?” gremlin in there?  Or the fear of your child landing in jail, never developing empathy or contributing to society?  Or is your own inner child hurting at being ignored, pushed aside, or yelled at?

4.  Trauma momma, heal thyself.  OK, identifying your triggers, knowing how, when, where, and why are all crucial parts on your path toward creating calm and connection in your family and home.  But momma, KNOWING your triggers and deactivating those triggers are two completely different things.  Trauma kids WILL get at every single one of our once-believed-dormant fears and triggers.  They just will.  Bringing a child of trauma into your home- either by birth or adoption- is a guarantee that you will have to eventually focus on and heal thyself.  This process looks different for all trauma mommas.  For some, this will be remembering self-care.  For some, simply looking at your fear and knowing your role in the trauma tornado will bring awareness and help you down the path toward healing.  For others, doing your own trauma processing work may be necessary.  I know.  You had no idea that you’d need to participate in trauma healing simply from parenting.  But parenting a child of trauma IS TRAUMA.  Momma, love and heal thyself.

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

Don’t miss Trust Based Parenting…In Real Life!!!  A one-time only, six-hour workshop for parents in West Michigan (Jenison) on August 8, 2015.  Click here for more details and to register!

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.

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