Trauma Proofing

“Something will grow from all you have been through. And it will be you.” ~Unknown

I read a really helpful book recently called “Trauma Proofing Your Kids,” by Peter Levine & Maggie Kline.

It would be naïve to say that my son, Jimmy, hasn’t been affected by all the things he has been through. Having a brain tumor definitely changes the rules up a bit, especially when it comes to parenting. We are slowly figuring out the true effects of it all and I’m sure they will be telling in some way for the rest of his life. My goal is to make him resilient because of it and so far that’s been the case.

In the book it read, ”The myth that can be laid to rest is that babies and toddlers “are too young to be affected” by adverse events or that “it won’t matter because they won’t remember.” What was not so obvious becomes apparent as we learn that prenatal infants, newborns and very young children are the most at risk to stress and trauma due to their undeveloped nervous, muscular and perceptual systems.”

You have no idea how many times people have expressed their relief of Jimmy’s diagnosis by telling me, “thank goodness he won’t remember it because he is so young.” I smile and politely nod. I don’t have the heart to tell them that his body will remember different things, and his mind will unconsciously take note of the traumas that have occurred. I have to consciously remember this as I navigate as parent because more often than not I have to look at the bigger picture all the time and not assume it’s him just being silly or making bad choices. I remind my husband, Jim, of it as well, because it’s not always easy to differentiate growing pains, sibling rivalry, challenging behavior with things that could be an effect from his medical history. In fact we have constantly remind each other as Jimmy’s parents. It’s basically like approaching parenting like a chess game, we always need a strategy and a plan or we just fail completely. Check mate:)

As the eternal optimist in me says, I must always have hope. I found it in the following paragraph.
“Please take note that with proper support, children are almost always able to rebound from stressful events. Because the capacity to heal is innate, our role as an adult is simple: it is to help youngsters access the capacity to triumph over life’s shocks and losses.” Through body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, your own nervous system communicates directly to your child’s nervous system. This is how we truly connect with our kids and anyone for that matter. It’s not our words that have the greatest impact; it’s the non-verbal cues that create the feelings of safety and trust. (“Trauma Proofing you Kids”)”

What I have learned is how to respond to Jimmy and the traumas he has had to face so they do have minimal affect on him. One thing I’d like to share with your today in hope that no matter how small or big a trauma that occurs this small piece of information may help you learn how to create resilient children. Please take note trauma can come in many forms, from a fall, to an encounter with an animal, to a medical diagnosis, the list is endless. This one piece of information has helped my kids bounce back faster than ever before.

Maintain calm body language
(Yes I am aware of how simple that sounds, most answers are that simple)

“In order for you to become more resilient and effective it’s vital that you gain an experiential sense of how your own instincts run when in danger or under stress.”

“Check your own bodies response first: If your anxious or upset take a full deep breath and as you exhale slowly feel the sensations in your body.
If you still feel upset, repeat until you feel settled. Feel you feet, ankles and legs, noticing how they make contact with the ground.
Connect with the ground, feel the gravity pull you and literally ground yourself.
The time it takes to establish a sense of calm is time well spent.
Then and only then approach the child…they will sense your calm.”

I use this approach even when they fall down with a scraped knee. It works beautifully. I imagine I’m a tree digging my roots into the earth and then I take a deep breath and say to myself, “I get to be Jimmy and Lily’s mommy, I get to come to the rescue when they need me, and I know exactly what to do; what a gift.” I open my eyes, smile and approach the crying child.

There are countless exercises written in “Trauma Proofing Your Kids”, I highly suggest if you’re a parent to add it to books you must read. It has visualizations you can do and the exercises to help mentally prepare yourself for the sensations your child feels and what you feel as you help them through whatever trauma takes place.

I have to say I have a very caring mother, who cares so deeply at times she overreacts. It’s very easy to do. Her approach when I was younger and even with my kids today is rather unsettling when it comes to trauma. She doesn’t do it on purpose, but her raw reaction is full of emotion and concern. Just imagine arms flailing, looks of extremely concern, lots of screaming and asking “what’s wrong?.” Panic comes to mind and lots of worry.
After learning this simple technique, (yes I am in the process of teaching my mother this new approach, slowly), I have allowed my children to heal quickly and bounce back as they should.

Add it to your parental arsenal my friends and remember you were born to do this!!

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