4 Super Powers of Being a Trauma Momma
***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.
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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