Experiences in Resilience Are Key To Healing Trauma
My youngest had a skiing accident in January of 2023 that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. Recovery was slow, but in January 2024 we practiced our final step of healing. Not from the bodily injury which luckily they have recovered from, but from the emotional one. The traumatic one. We returned to where the accident happened and we tried skiing again.
There were times when my child felt scared, but we talked and hugged and I encouraged them to move past their fear to experience what they were capable of because I knew they were ready for this. And then we went slow and we skied together.
In short we had a lesson in resilience.
And 3 hours later I couldn’t pull my child off the hill because they were having so much fun. And they were no longer skiing close to me, they wanted to do it on their own. They had experienced so much confidence building.
But the best part as a parent was that my child experienced resilience. That sometimes in life, bad things happen. But it does not mean it stays like that forever. They can overcome their fears and teach their body a new experience that helps to override the old. In short, they can help themselves heal their trauma.
When you want to have a similar lesson in resilience with your child, do the following:
1. Make sure you acknowledge and validate their feelings
Your child’s body is trying to keep them safe based on their past experience so it can produce some big and overwhelming feelings. Don’t gloss over those feelings, help your child to recognize them and where they may be coming from. And help them to co-regulate so those feelings don’t feel so overwhelming.
2. Help your child by letting them borrow your confidence
Your child will have doubts about trying something they feel is too hard or too scary. This is natural. Your job is to let them know you have confidence in them and that you believe they are ready so they can begin to believe it as well.
3. Go slow
It’s not about conquering it all. It is about helping your child stretch their tolerance while making them successful. Let them help guide the pace. Sometimes that means it is a small step in the direction of healing. And that is just fine. Keep having them take those small steps and they will get there.
The truth is my goal was to get my child back out to the same hill and onto skis. I was planning to spend the entire time on the bunny hill with them. And I was prepared to take a lot of breaks in the chalet.
And that approach gave my child the chance to set their pace. It was my child that wanted to slowly do more and begin doing the bigger runs. Which is why it was so impactful because my child was leading their own trauma healing.
While trauma itself is never fully erased from the body, your goal is to create an experience to overshadow it. Something to remember if past trauma sparks an emotional response. Because that will happen from time to time with trauma. But the more experiences in resilience you can support, the more your child will be able to better manage their trauma response.
Are you feeling like this is the worst time to make parenting changes? That you would like to work on your child’s behavior, but it feels too overwhelming? That between work, vacations, activities, etc. it would be impossible, so why bother trying?
You are not alone in this challenge! Most parents feel that they can’t commit to making parenting changes. That they are willing to suffer alone in their struggles until they are at a breaking point. Because there is no “perfect time” to figure out how to deal with challenging behaviors. There are always obstacles and struggles that stand in your way.
But I’ve got you covered. Try these 3 parenting tips for busy parents. You’ll be surprised how these painless parenting changes can give you real results.
3 Parenting Tips For Busy Parents
1. Begin with a hug When your child is struggling, begin by offering a hug. It may seem counterintuitive to offer a hug when your child is behaving poorly or being a jerk to someone in the family. But what they really need in that moment is connection so they can calm down. And that is what a hug can do for them. Once they are calm they will be more receptive to you correcting their behavior.
2. Make time for play Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, kids need play. And play with a parent can be a way to help them connect with you. This connection helps form the basis for trust when it comes to influencing your child’s behaviors. And for having them share information with you, especially when they are older. So take a little time each day, even 5 minutes is enough, to read a book with them, play something or joke around.
3. Improve your listening One of the complaints I hear most from parents is that their kid doesn’t listen to them. But listening is a two-way street. When parents become better listeners, their children become better listeners too. So the next time your child is complaining, not complying, etc. repeat back to them what they are saying. It doesn’t mean you are going to give in or give up, you are showing them you hear what they are saying. And when your child feels heard, they can better accept what you are saying to them.
Still thinking you can’t commit?
Don’t worry! While consistency definitely helps with parenting changes, you don’t have to be perfect. Don’t let your struggle with consistency or lack of time be a barrier to trying. Try just one of the tips above once a day for a week to see how it makes you feel and how your child responds.
The most important part about parenting changes is not about perfection. It’s connection. Which is why these 3 tips are all based in creating connection.
So give yourself a little credit and a little slack as you try something new. Because you can begin to change your child’s behavior! And it doesn’t need to feel impossible.
And if you are at your breaking point…
I’m here to tell you you can do this! Just like you are able to find the time to deal with a crisis when it arises in your house or at work, you can find the time and effort needed for parenting changes. But it doesn’t need to feel impossible and you don’t have to go it alone.
The key to any solution is finding an expert and tools that make things easy. At Happy Parenting & Families parent coaching, that’s what I do for parents. I make parenting changes easy. I walk along with you in your struggles and help you put in place solutions that take very little time, but have big impacts. You are never alone and you never have to go it alone. If you are feeling overwhelmed and alone, reach out. I offer free 30 minute chats so you can release your burden and begin getting solutions. Schedule a Free 30 Minute Chat
Holidays bring a lot of expectations for parents. Family traditions, positive memories, and of course well-behaving children are just a few. Which is why holidays are generally a time of stress for most parents.
Let’s face it, kids are more likely to act out during holidays because there is less structure and more stress. And adults are less likely to have patience and more likely to respond with frustration. Add in travel, long visits with relatives and friends, sugary foods, interrupted sleep schedules and you’ve got a recipe for tough times.
So here are 5 holiday parenting tips to help you thrive during your holiday season
1. Readjust Your Expectations
Come to terms that things may not work out exactly how you would like them to. Take a moment to recognize a lot of things are outside of your control. It is not a reflection on you as a parent or as a person. And then come up with the next best thing you know you or your kids can do. This will help take some of the pressure off. And make everyone feel more successful when things do work out.
2. Take A Break
If you are stressed, the whole family feels stressed. So as hard as it can be and as guilty as you might feel, it is important to practice self-care during holidays.
And I know what you are thinking, you don’t have time for that. But, think of it this way. Parents set the tone for their families. So if you want to have a smoother holiday, you need to set the tone of being calm and relaxed. And the only way to do that is to actually become calm and relaxed.
Which brings us back to self-care needing to be a priority. Schedule it in as though it is an important meeting, because it is. Better yet, use the time before the holiday as practice. Start asking for more help and taking more time for yourself. Help yourself get into the habit. Tanks can’t run on empty so make sure you are going into your holiday with a full tank.
3. Practice Self-Compassion
It’s okay to feel sad, overwhelmed and upset. These are emotions that a lot of people feel everyday. Even during holidays when you are ‘supposed’ to feel happy. It is also okay to feel the grief of not having things go the way you want or for traditions being changed.
What can help you through these tough emotions is practicing self-compassion. In short, self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a close friend. Realizing that you are dealing with something tough. Recognizing that others may also be struggling like you. And that this is just one moment in time.
And because it is a tough time, you deserve to meet yourself with kindness and understanding. As you would a friend.
Need more of a push? Studies have shown that self-compassion can help increase oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone that can counteract increased blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. And that helps lower your stress and decreases your anxiety. Plus self-compassion has the added benefit of helping you stay in the present moment. So you have a higher chance of actually enjoying the holiday with your children and family.
4. Move Your Body
Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress in your body and reset your stress response. Whether you like to run, lift weights, go for a walk, or something else, just get your body moving.
The reason exercise works so well is because it helps to complete the body’s stress cycle.
It’s easy to get stuck in a stress cycle when you are running from one thing to the next. But when you exercise and bring your heart rate up and then stop exercising and your heart rate comes back to normal, it is a natural signal letting your body know to stop its stress response. When you can get your body to stop signaling a stress response it will reduce the levels of cortisol in your system. Less cortisol allows you to think more clearly, function better and sleep better. It also gives you more control over your emotional regulation, making it easier to keep your cool. Which is a win for you and your kids.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the exercise of staying in the present moment. And staying in the present moment can help cut down a lot on stress. It can also help you reset so you can appreciate the things that are going well.
Now if you aren’t into mindfulness or feel like it is too difficult, stick with me for a moment. Because anyone can learn to practice mindfulness, even kids.
Mindfulness is about being in the moment, noticing your thoughts/feelings and then letting them go. So it is okay if you think about things as you try to be mindful. Simply acknowledge your thought or emotion and then try to let that thought or emotion go.
For beginners and for kids, I like to help teach mindfulness through exercises that engage the senses. A very popular mindfulness exercise for this is noticing 5 things you hear, 4 things you see/notice, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste.
Another good option is doing 10-20 jumping jacks. Then rest your hand on your heart and focus on how your heart rate comes back to normal.
Learning to practice mindfulness, like self-compassion takes time. But the benefits are worth it, so give it a try.
No one can push your buttons the way your child does. But for some parents, interactions with their child can feel more extreme because their child not only pushes their buttons, but triggers uncontrollable reactions.
When a parent feels triggered it can come out as anger. It may feel like you have a shorter fuse and that you explode more. Sometimes it comes out as avoidance. Feeling like you can’t stand to be in the same physical space as your child or interact with them. And sometimes it comes out as giving in or giving up. Feeling like you can’t possibly win. Feeling so exhausted you question if you can do anything right so you simply chose to do nothing.
No matter how you react, the end result is the same. You feel like you are failing as a parent. Like parenting is incredibly hard and frustrating. And often times it leads you to feel like you don’t want to be a parent to your child.
And then you have the guilt for having such thoughts. And you feel alone because no one else seems to have these struggles like you.
I know that feeling because it is a feeling I used to get a lot when my eldest was young. For me, my child triggered my anxiety. Whenever they began to spiral I could feel my anxiety rising. And as a result I would try to control the environment to keep my child from becoming triggered. Because it was the only way I thought I could keep myself from becoming triggered. Because when I became triggered I became angry. And when I was angry I was not the parent I wanted to be.
I knew I was not helping my child and that I was hurting our relationship. But I couldn’t figure out how to not get triggered by my child. And for me, I felt confused and upset after I was triggered. Because before I had my eldest I was laid back and handled pressure well. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten to this point of dreading my child’s reactions or how to break the cycle.
So what did I do? Well it took some time to recognize that my child was actually a trigger for me. That it was more than just getting on my nerves or pushing my buttons. They were causing a very intense, uncontrollable reaction in me. And that because of that reaction and how much I dreaded it, I was doing a lot to try to avoid or minimize my child’s triggers.
Once I realized I was being triggered I needed to reflect on how I wanted to live and parent. I took a hard look at how I was parenting. And I realized that I was putting a lot of effort in, but not getting the results I wanted. In short, I was doing a lot of accommodations, but still being triggered a lot of the time.
That caused me to realize that if I wanted something to be different I was going to have to do something different. Because what I was doing was not working for my child or for me.
Being triggered by your child does not make you a bad parent. But it does make parenting harder. A lot harder. So if your child is triggering you, you are not alone. And while it can be a good idea to work with a therapist or counselor to discover why you become triggered, this article is about the things you can do right now to break free from being triggered by your child.
These things all take time, so give yourself some grace and understanding. Behaviors don’t change overnight. Just keep showing up and doing the work. That is how you make changes.
Breaking Free of Being Triggered By Your Child
1. Understand your body’s reaction – This is not just in your head
Your body is having a biological reaction to your child’s behaviors. When your child has a big reaction, or you have an intense memory of how your child reacted the last time, your fear center becomes triggered. This is a normal reaction anytime we experience someone’s anger or when we feel threatened.
When our fear is triggered, we react in a very biological way. Our survival instincts kick in and that means our thinking brain shuts off. So we have a harder time regulating ourselves. Meaning we often escalate right along with our child who is upset.
So how do we interrupt this biological reaction? We need to remember to practice coping techniques. If you are becoming triggered you need to take care of yourself first. Regaining your calm is necessary to be able to effectively calm down your child. Try taking deep breaths, removing yourself temporarily from the room if it is safe for your child, or naming your feelings.
By practicing coping techniques you can regain control over your body’s reaction and bring your thinking brain back online. Once you are able to think again it becomes easier to problem solve solutions to help your child as well.
2. Understand it may not be your child who is causing you to be triggered, it may be you
When your child hits certain milestones or ages, it is natural for you to remember your childhood at that age. Depending on your experience, your family interactions or how you felt at that time it may cause old feelings and trauma to resurface.
And what a lot of people don’t know is that trauma can be caused by small events. And it varies from individual to individual. Trauma can be caused by invalidations or criticisms that get repeated over and over, often without the parent being aware that any harm is being done to their child. In short, trauma is based on your individual response to an event that you found overwhelming and that you could not fully process. So it is not uncommon for our parenting to bring up trauma that we did not know existed.
That is why when our child behaves a certain way or reminds you of when you were young, your childhood feelings reemerge. And the tricky thing about trauma is it blends time together. What happened in the past and how we felt gets mixed with what is happening now and how we feel now. Making it hard to realize our emotions and triggers are coming from the past.
So how do we move past a trauma we didn’t even realize we had? This is where mindfulness, yoga or Qigong can help. Each of these tools helps you to breathe and focus on the present moment. And when we can breathe and bring awareness to how our body feels in this moment we can begin to separate out the past from the present. Yoga and Qigong can be especially helpful if your body needs movement in order to focus on the present.
By practicing a form of mindfulness you are creating space to notice and question your feelings. What are you feeling? Why might you be feeling this? And when you can answer these questions you can then make an intentional decision about how you are going to proceed. And that ability to be intentional has the power to change your interactions with your child and their interactions with you.
3. Instead of avoiding being triggered, work on interrupting your triggers
It is easy to get into the habit of trying to avoid your child during certain time periods or events. Or to bend over backwards with accommodations. And it is easy to say you are doing it to keep the peace and make things easier for everyone. But it’s time to ask yourself if it really is easier.
Chances are your avoidance is leading to more behavior issues because kids tend to escalate behaviors if they feel they are being ignored. Or you are actually spending a lot of your time and energy on making accommodations.
So what can you do? Practice the STOP mantra. When your child is escalating and you feel like you are going to escalate right along with them 1. Stop 2. Take 3 deep breaths 3. Observe what you are feeling and 4. Proceed with intent.
The importance of breaking the avoidance habit is because avoidance is not a long term solution. Emotions that are not dealt with do not go away on their own. They usually resurface later with more intensity. The key to moving past your emotions is noticing what you are feeling. And moving past your emotions is critical to forming new behaviors for you and your child.
4. Choose to practice empathy and compassion for both your child and yourself
When you become triggered as a parent, parenting gets 10x harder. So acknowledge your struggle. Tell yourself that this is really hard right now. And tell yourself you are doing the best you can right now. Practicing this kind of self-compassion can help you shed any guilt or shame you are piling on top of yourself. It also lets you experience a little kindness when you need it most.
But don’t forget about your child. It may be hard to do as your child is triggering you, but remember they are a child. They are not trying to make you upset. They are trying to communicate they are struggling and that they need help. It’s just neither of you are at your best right now. Remind yourself of these things and you will find you are able to be more empathetic to your child. And empathy leads to connection, understanding and patience. All of which help resolve behavior challenges faster.
5. Work on repairing your relationship after you have been triggered
No parent is perfect. All parents yell. All parents have said something to their child they later regret. What happens during an escalation doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens after the event.
Repairing is the act of acknowledging your actions and making amends for them. In order to do this, you need to acknowledge your part in the escalation. This means you let your child know how you were feeling, why you reacted the way you did and how you could have done better.
Repairing is critical. Not only does it teach your child valuable relationship skills, but it helps you put your emotions and reactions into context so you can recognize and learn from them. It helps to create awareness and accountability, which can help you change your future responses. Repairing also helps protect your child from trauma because it gives them a chance to process their feelings and emotions about an event.
Parenting is never easy. Especially if your child triggers uncontrollable emotions in you. But becoming triggered is something you can change.
If you are triggered by your child and need help or support, I invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat to talk about how parent coaching can help support you and your child.