Monday, December 2, 2013

Trauma and how it shows up here

Yesterday we "celebrated" the event surrounding this picture.  Here you see 5 month old Michael and his new foster brothers.  Of course this was 4 years ago and this picture almost seems impossible!  Never did we imagine that 2 years later he would officially be ours :) 
While we celebrate this day he joined our family, this day is also very traumatic.  Many people think that children (especially young infants) do not experience trauma in the same way that older children do.  Perhaps in part this is true, but infants can and DO experience trauma and it can effect them greatly!  This was the day he was taken away from everyone he ever knew.  He was taken from familiar smells and places and put somewhere totally new with other little people running around.  Can you imagine what these little ones going through foster care go through?  Stop and take a minute to truly visualize what happens to them. 
Young children who experience trauma are at particular risk because their rapidly developing brains are very vulnerable. Early childhood trauma has been associated with reduced size of the brain cortex which is responsible for many complex functions including memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thinking, language, and consciousness. These changes may affect IQ and the ability to regulate emotions.
When something scary happens, the brain makes sure you do not forget it. Traumatic events are remembered in a special way. They are often experienced as a pattern of sensations with sounds, smells, and feelings mixed together. Any one of these things can make a child feel like the whole event is happening again. These things or sensations are called “triggers.” Triggers can be smells or sounds. They can be places, postures, or tones of voice. Even emotions can be a trigger.
Parenting After Trauma: Understanding Your Child's Needs - A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents
So for Michael yesterday, there were things happening within him that he had no idea were going on.  He couldn't control his behavior at all yesterday.  He has this's not his sweet normal Mikey laugh.  I hate hearing *that* laugh because it means he is dysregulated.  He can't control himself.  Last night proved to be almost as bad as the day.  All night long he cried off and on.  At one point (I'll go into more detail in a minute) both he and Choo Choo were screaming at the top of their lungs and just couldn't calm themselves or let themselves be calmed. 
Remembering a traumatic event can cause some of the original “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction to return. This might look like a “tantrum.” It might also look like the child is overreacting. Sometimes anxiety can cause a child to “freeze.” This may look like defiance. A child who sees the world as a place full of danger may do this. Many children who have been abused or neglected go through life always ready to flee or to fight
Parenting After Trauma: Understanding Your Child's Needs - A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents
Yesterday evening Choo Choo also returned from his weekend visit.  We've had him since 3 days old, but trauma is very present in his life too.  The things that happened in utero are enough to scare any foster parent away!  He has been bounced with visits between bio mom, bio dad (were never allowed to visit together), bio aunt/uncle, us, and other bio-family.  We had a family member stay with us once and her comment was something to the effect of "does all that screaming come from what has been happening to him?"  Ummm...pretty much!  Both he and Michael have very difficult times controlling and processing emotions. 
So back to last night...Choo Choo woke up crying (typical for a post-visit night) and then Michael woke up screaming.  For about 30-45 minutes at one point, both were screaming in unison.  Choo Choo was speaking nonsense about ants being on his pillow and Michael just couldn't verbalize anything!  Thank God hubby was there to help.  We'd go back and forth trying to comfort them and settle them down.  Finally, Michael calmed down and slept the rest of the night, but it was an all-night event for Choo Choo :( The whole time I just kept binding the spirits of fear, abandonment, and anger within them.  I called on Jesus and just laid my hands on them and prayed!
Learning your child's triggers is key.  I know that Gotcha Days, birthdays, Adoption Days, Mother's/Father's Day and some holidays are going to give us "ramped up" behavior and some of the things that we thought were "taken care of" or healed within them rear their ugly heads once again.  It's important to be prepared (mentally/spiritually/emotionally) to help  your child(ren) deal with these feelings.  Of course this isn't just with our foster kiddos.  Adoption can be just as traumatic and my older boys have lots of the same triggers as well.  This site (although geared for IA foster parents) has a lot of good links at the bottom that explain trauma and how to help your child. 
So as we move toward Christmas and all that is coming up in the next couple of months, say a prayer for our kiddos and us too as we swim though these sometimes muddy waters helping our children heal.  :)


Cherub Mamma said...

Very well written post! So few people, foster parents included, understand how trauma can affect even the little ones! Your post highlights a lot of truths.

Bessy said...

I hate "the" laugh! Ugh, hope things go smoothly for you the rest of the holiday season :)