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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….

~

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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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