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Trauma Mommas in the Summer

June 4, 2013

If you haven’t noticed, the end of the school year is upon us.  My son’s last day was yesterday. Most kids throughout central Texas end either this week or next week.  Every school in the US is looking at a room full of hyper and dysregulated children.  The last few weeks of school seem to be a free-for-all, which has always perplexed me and I find myself wondering “Why don’t they just let those kids out early?”  But I guess if the last day of school was May 15, then the weeks leading up to May 15 would be the same free-for-all.

Why is the end of the year so hard for our kids of trauma?

  • MAJOR transition.  Of course you already know this, but any transition is hard for our children’s nervous systems.  Different = danger.  Different puts their nervous system at the edge of fight/flight/freeze as they prepare for any unexpected danger that might come their way.
  • MAJOR loss!  Loss of teachers and friends can have a tremendous impact on a child who has already experienced the unimaginable loss of a first-parent.  As kids become more and more dysregulated, they start to function out of lower and lower areas of their brain.  As they go lower into their brain, they start to lose their sense of time.  Temporary pauses in relationships seem like forever endings.  “See you in August!” means nothing to a child who is dysregulated and operating out of their limbic brain.
  • MAJOR unpredictability.  School provides an amount of structure that most trauma mommas can’t recreate at home.  For many kids of trauma, the structure of school is safe and predictable.  Of course, there are children who are so stressed out by the demands of school that any benefits of structure are really lost on them, but for those kids who thrive in the structure of school, transitioning into summer is very difficult.

So, what are some things you can do?

  • Rest assured that all kids and parents are going out of their minds right now.  Even kids without developmental trauma are struggling through this transition.
  • Check out what your scared momma thoughts are in the trauma tornado.  “I’ll never survive the summer!” Or maybe it’s “My kid does so much better at school than at home with me- why does she hate me?” Whatever your scared momma belief is, tune into it, assess if it’s accurate (it’s probably not), and do a quick check of step one and two of Developing your Trauma Momma Super Powers…how did trauma impact your child’s ability to transition, manage loss, and deal with loss of structure?  Practice strengthening your four super powers and replace your scared momma thoughts with those true thoughts.
  • Provide as much structure as possible!  Maybe that means summer camp.  Maybe that means scheduled and structured days.  Most trauma kids can’t handle lazy mornings, breakfast whenever, cartoons, getting dressed around 11am, and then thinking about some activities to do for the day.  Make a daily schedule and stick with it.  Pick out activities to do ahead of time and give your child the information about the day at the time you know works for them.  Some kids need it in the morning or the night before.  Some need it a week before.  Some kids would go crazy anticipating a fun event for over a week.  You know your child best!
  • Stay connected with other trauma mommas!  Do you need help and support to practice your super powers and jump out of the trauma tornado?  I started a Facebook group “Trauma Mommas with Super Powers!” with the intent of bringing trauma mommas together to provide that support for each other.  Come check it out!  It’s brand new so I’d love to get it started during this tough time of year for trauma mommas.
  • Take care of yourself!  Remember that our nervous systems will match each other.  If you can keep your nervous system regulated, you’re giving your child the opportunity to borrow that energy.  If you stay dysregulated, your child’s dysregulation will continue to spiral in the trauma tornado.  Your own regulated nervous system isn’t a cure for your child, but it sure does help.


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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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