Potty Break – Dealing with the Holidays – Episode 12 – 7 Interventions that Help When Children are Triggered by Old Trauma
In this episode Jennie and Lynn help parents understand Trauma Triggers. Triggers can be any sensation, environment or interaction that triggers a trauma response for the child. Some common trauma triggers amongst Adopted and Foster Children that have complex trauma are:
Common Trauma Triggers
- Smells, Sounds, Tastes, Colors, Textures (All senses)
- Separation from a caregiver (mom goes to the bathroom, etc)
- Significant dates or seasons
- Children may also be triggered when they notice their parents may be axious, angry or sick because they are worried they will lose them like their last parents
- Children may be triggered by limits (i.e. no you may not have ice cream for breakfast). To them it can feel like rejection.
Special Note: These do not have to be remembered events. Traumatic events in infancy can be “remembered” by the brain even if there is no biographical memory. Geek out on the science behind that here.
Recognizing a trauma Trigger
- Compliance/over compliance
- Detachment/daydream/pseudo seizure
- Increasing Clinginess (vigilance)
7 Brief Interventions to Help When Children are Triggered by Old Trauma
- Validate them to help them increase self awareness. Don’t be surprised that self awareness will take THOUSANDS of these validations over many years.
- Protect – Let them know someone bigger is here to keep them safe
- Connect through any type of shared movement rocking, swinging, bouncing – or play. This connection opens the door to shared regulation, where the parent gets to cary the burden and show that it will be ok.
- Touch, especially skin to skin, is helpful in helping children feel safe and loved. Hugs, massage, head scratches, Rocking, etc.
- Act get the body moving so that it can complete what is is preparing to do to protect itself. Run – Karate – Play Tag- Play Kick Ball – Punch a punching bag
- Stay Calm
- Resist the urge to swing to the extremes of Punishment or Permissiveness. Instead allow the child to feel better about themselves by making restitution for any damage they did (physically or relationally).
Links and products from this video:
- Expansion of the explanation on arousal and dissociative continuums in Traumatized Children. Resources for Parents From The Child Trauma Academy . Here is a direct link to the article, Helping Traumatized Children – A Brief Overview for Caregivers written by Dr. Bruce Perry
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, By Bessel Van Der Kolk
- A Terrible Thing Happened is a classic book for kids that encourages them to be brave enough to talk about it.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network was developed by an act of congress and features training and free resources for professionals and caregivers.
About Potty Break:
Potty Break is a series of daily training and encouragement videos for foster and adoptive parents…designed to be watched during those precious few minutes that you can find some alone time….your potty break. (Parents of kids with other special needs are free to listen in 🙂 – most techniques we suggest are effective for kids that have other types of trauma and neurological developmental issues.
The first segment of Potty Break, Handling the Holidays consists of 13 episodes dedicated to helping family with adopted and foster children with special needs thrive during the holidays. Jennie and Lynn laid out 5 reasons that kids struggle more during the holidays that at any other time of the year.
- Sensory Processing Issues: All the extra sights, sounds and smells overstimulate children with Sensory Issues. Sensory issues are common among children with in utero exposure and other early traumas (Episodes 3, 4 & 5).
- Anxiety: All kids get anxious around the holidays. As anxiety goes up, functioning goes down. Many of the children that were adopted from hard places already had very little capacity for anxiety so the holiday put them over the edge (Episodes 6 & 7).
- Self Regulation Issues: For a variety of genetic, mental health, and trauma related reasons, some children lack the capacity to regulate their own emotional state. Parents of these kids will need to help them stay regulated and set realistic expectations (Episodes 8, 9, 10 & 11).
- Trauma triggers: Often the worst times of our kids lives happened during the holidays. Sensations and situations can trigger a traumatic response which can cause a physiological response, bring up an old memory that they may try to suppress or both. Parents can help their kids discover what is going on to reduce the child’s regression. (Episode 12)
- Grief and Loss: Special moments are a reminder of what our kids lost or wish they had. Processing this loss periodically is a necessary part of acceptance. (Episode 13)