Sadly, sometimes children are placed for adoption due to traumatic circumstances. Actions such as abuse, neglect, assault, are all far too common in the pasts of many adopted children. The effects of trauma, which may have happened in a time when the child was too young to remember them, can be far-reaching and manifest in challenging behaviours that can put a strain on all members of the family.
No matter whether you adopted as a couple, single, or LGBT adoptees, being prepared and informed as to how to take on these behavioural challenges can help make things easier in the long run. Most of all, it’s important to remember that though at times things may seem bleak, with your love and care your child will find a way to overcome their traumas.
What is Trauma and how does it Affect my Child?
Trauma is an emotional response to a traumatic event. This event is usually intense in nature and involves harm or the imminent threat of harm towards the individual or those in close proximity to them. Trauma can be caused by a single event (such as an accident or sudden event) or can be inflicted by events occurring over time (such as abuse or neglect).
Trauma can affect your child in almost every facet of their life, from their bodies to their minds and emotions. This can be displayed outwardly in ways such as:
- Inability to control their body's reactions to stress
- Chronic illnesses
- Developmental delays
- Poor memory
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling unsafe
- Poor emotional regulation
- Attachment difficulties
- Trouble with friendships
- Trust issues
- Lack of impulse control
- Fighting or aggression
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
Parenting through the Trauma
While the potential impacts above might seem damning, it is important to remember that with strong parenting techniques and your love and care, even the most difficult of starts can lead to bright futures. Listed below are some parenting techniques which may help you to guide your child through their traumas.
- 1. Identify your Child’s Triggers - Pay attention to your child's actions. Do they appear triggered by specific events or aspects of your home, or certain behaviors of others? Help your child to avoid these triggers until they are old enough or at the stage of healing where they can understand these triggers and how to control them.
- 2. Be Available - Be both emotionally and physically available, follow your child's lead, and work to build their trust.
- 3. Don’t React - While challenging behaviour can be straining on your own emotions and patience, as parents it is important to resist the urge to react to undesirable behaviours. Instead, keep your reactions calm and measured, and instead respond to the behaviour in a productive manner.
- 4. No Physical Punishment - This should be a no-go for parents of unadopted children also!
- 5. Listen - Always listen to what your child has to say, even if they are shouting. Listening to what your child has to say is a doorway into their struggles and can help you to help them.
- 6. Relax - Teach your child relaxing techniques, such as breathing exercises.
Most of all, just be patient. Adoption is an adjustment period for parents and children alike, and sometimes, love, time, and understanding is all your child needs. If concerning behaviors and trauma reactions persist, seeking professional help from a therapist is a great way to ensure you're getting your child all the help they need.