Parenting Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

How can we parent our children who have experienced trauma. How can we discipline them in a way that will help them learn and grow. We talk with Karen Doyle Buckwalter, a clinical social worker specializing in attachment and trauma, and author of Raising the Challenging Child: How to Minimize Meltdowns, Reduce Conflict, and Increase Cooperation.

In this episode, we cover:

Impact of Trauma

  • What is trauma?
  • Trauma vs PTSD
  • How does trauma impact a child?
  • 3 levels of the brain and how many children are reacting from a primitive fear base if there’s a history of abuse or neglect.
  • Does the age of the child when they experienced trauma or the type of trauma affect the degree to which the child will be impacted?
  • If you can flee it lowers the incidence of PTSD
  •  Preverbal trauma- before they have language and memory

How to Best Parent a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma

  • What is a typical behavior for a child who has experienced trauma?
  • Internal working model formed with earliest caregivers that forms a template for future relationships with caregivers
  • Children are terrified of being forgotten
  • The children often “reject you before you can reject them.” This helps protect them from this core fear of rejection and is a primitive survival mechanism.
  • MUST be aware of one’s own vulnerabilities and insecurities that may be triggered by caring for children with this history  
  • How to help our kids heal and attach? Tips and Techniques

How to Discipline a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma

  • Connection before corrections
  • Build up your relationship account
  • Provide choices
  • Provide a balance of structure and nurture
  • The need for co-regulation with a safe adult rather than time out or other typical approaches.
  • These things take time to change. Just because the child is safe now does not remove these well-worn neuropathways.

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Music credit: Michael Ashworth

Image credit: Hans Kretzmann