How To Help Heal Trauma

How To Help Heal Trauma

How to Help Heal Trauma

help child heal trauma through parent coaching

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

3 Tips to Decrease Meltdowns

3 Tips to Decrease Meltdowns

3 tips to decrease meltdowns and tantrums

Minneapolis Parent Coach Jen Kiss gives 3 tips to decrease meltdowns and tantrums

As we all know, meltdowns and tantrums have a way of ruling the roost when they are in full swing. Whether your goal is to stop behavior before it occurs or have a quicker resolution, the key is finding the source. To do this, you have to do some investigating about why your child’s behavior is occurring.

At first glance, you may think the answer is obvious. For instance you may think it was because they didn’t get their way. Or you may have no idea because it feels like it came out of nowhere. But the key to solving behavior issues is to look a little deeper into your child’s reactions. All behavior is communication. When your child has a meltdown or tantrum they are trying to communicate with you.

So what is your child trying to communicate?

Where Behaviors Come From

Fear or Anxiety

A lot of challenging behaviors come out of fear or anxiety. From refusing to go to bed or school, to opposing everything you say, fear is often at the core of these very frustrating behaviors. Usually fear causes children to try to control their environment as a way to try to cope. This can show up as being rigid about what they will or won’t do, being clingy, avoiding certain places or people or becoming bossy and demanding. It can also show up as aggressive behavior because the child’s brain is trying to fight against their fear.

Sensory Sensitivities

For a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or sensory sensitivities, the world can feel like a minefield. Children can become overwhelmed when tasked with something their bodies are uncomfortable with. As a result, many kids with sensory sensitivities use avoidance to manage these sensitivities. They may also have big reactions to certain stimulus or it may seem like they completely tune the world out.

Stress and Overwhelm

Kids are not immune to stress, trauma or overwhelm. In fact, stress often affects kids more because their ability to regulate their emotions, self-soothe, cope and have perspective are still developing. When a child’s stress tolerance is breached the limited skills they do have go right out the window. This leaves kids reacting from their lower brain, which is charge of the stress response. When kids are stressed or overwhelmed it can show up as aggression, disinterest or avoidance.

Trauma

Trauma does not need to be a big, scary event. Trauma can be a lot of little events that add up over time or a single event. The nature of the event and whether there is a caring adult to help after the event, will determine whether a child experiences trauma.

If your child has a history of trauma, their amygdala can be enlarged because it is working overtime. An enlarged amygdala results in hypervigilence and more stress responses. Like stress, trauma limits a child’s ability to control their actions when triggered. Trauma can be triggered from everyday events or sensory stimulus, like smells. Trauma behaviors are usually much more extreme in their aggression. In addition, trauma tantrums can last for a very long time.

Learning Disability or Neurodiversity Struggles

Children with learning disabilities and neurodiversity struggle because their brain can’t do what is being asked of them. This can be extremely frustrating for the parent and child. While it often appears as being lazy or defiant, the child is actually neither of these things. Executive functioning abilities, which includes focus and attention, impulse control and predicting consequences, can be delayed or harder to master in children that have learning disabilities and neurodiversity. Research has shown that these children have brains that are wired in a different way. Research also indicates these children tend to experience anxiety and depression at a higher rate. Mental health struggles have a direct link to behavior challenges.

Connection or Relationship Troubles

We are social creatures by nature. When a child is not connecting to the important people in their lives, it can set off behavior challenges. A child who is lacking connection may become less trusting of others for fear of further rejection. Or they may become provoking and aggressive to demand others pay attention to them.

Lack of connection can have serious effects on a child’s attachment with caregivers and can lead to mental health issues that last into adulthood. If your child is struggling with behaviors, start by looking at your relationship. How much undivided connection time you are spending with them a day? If your child lacks alone time with you to talk or bond, make this a priority. Spending time with your child would be a good first step to reducing unwanted behaviors.

For teenagers, their main source for connection are their friends. Rejection by peers can lead to depression or significant behavior issues. If things seem fine in your relationship, check in to see how their friend relationships are going. Don’t push too hard, but let them know you are open for talking any time.

Solutions

Regardless of which category you think your child falls into, the solutions remain the same. So it is okay if your child falls into more than one category; that is not uncommon. It just might mean that it will take longer for your child to work through learning emotional regulation and impulse control because they have a few more hurdles in their way.

1. Spend at least 5 minutes a day connecting with your child

This time should be planned into your day the same way an important meeting would be. This time is spent doing whatever your child would like to do or talk about. Make sure to keep the time uninterrupted. If you need to interrupt your time to deal with something urgent, let your child know and set a time to circle back later.

2. Reflect back to your child so they know you understand their struggles

Whether your child is struggling with fear, stress, neurodiversity or sensory sensitivities, acknowledging why something is hard can be a game changer. If you want to get ahead of behaviors, reflect their feelings back to them as they are beginning to escalate. After reflecting back, like ‘that made you mad, you did not like that at all’, offer to do a coping technique with them. Coping techniques such as slow breathing and hugs are good for any age. If your child escalated too fast you can still reflect during their tantrum to make it shorter. Keep the words small and your voice calm. Listening is the key.

3. Provide “just right” accommodations to decrease meltdowns and tantrums

While we do not want to accommodate too much, we do want to make sure we are supportive. This means we provide just enough support to stretch your child into building their coping and self-regulation skills. For example, you may help them get started with deep breathing and ask for them to continue without you. Or you begin a hard task together and slowly remove yourself over time.

For anxiety and fear, while we do not want to create too much stress, the ultimate goal will be to show the child that they can be uncomfortable and still be okay. This is how we build up their confidence and resilience and lessen behavior challenges. Always start with little steps towards your goal since going too fast can make your child resist. If you want to learn more about how to do this with your child, check out our 3 Ways to Help Your Child with Anxiety.

For sensory sensitivities, accommodations are usually necessary. Like anxiety, the goal is to help them learn to build up tolerance so they can function better in their lives. Because sensory sensitivities can be complex and span all 8 senses, it can be very helpful to work with an occupational therapist to make progress.

Final Thoughts

All behavior is communication. If you listen to what your child’s behavior is trying to communicate you can get to the root cause. Once you know their motive, you can parent from a better, more effective place. Knowing why our kids act the way they do allows us to do the things that will help minimize their behaviors. It also allows us to view our children from a different light and meet them with compassion and patience. And when we do that, challenging behaviors lessen dramatically.

When You Are Triggered by Your Child

When You Are Triggered by Your Child

When You Are Triggered By Your Child

When your childs challenging behavior triggers your rage_parent coaching can help solve difficult behaviors

Are you a parent triggered by your child?

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Schedule a Free 30 Minute Chat

How to talk about tough topics with your child

How to talk about tough topics with your child

How to Talk About Tough Topics

Having tough talks with your child is necessary to help your child feel safe

 

Talking to a child about tough topics such as violence, racism, and death are never easy. But age appropriate talks are necessary to make sure your child feels safe.

Here are tips on how to talk with your child about tough topics.

What to say

Figure out your feelings first. It is okay to be upset and to let your child know you are upset. Talk with your child calmly about the events to give your child space to feel safe and ask questions.

If you get too emotional, take a break. Let your child know you are upset and are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings. Model how you can calm those feelings of overwhelm and emotion in a healthy way. This could be going for a walk, deep breathing or journaling.

Young kids may only hear snippets of what is going on or view images that are flashing on screens. Naturally, a child will try to form a story of what they see and hear to make sense of their world. When adults do not talk with young kids, they can make up something worse than what has happened. This can feel very scary to kids. Take the time to ask your child what they think is going on. Then, listen to their feelings. Talk to them broadly about the event and share your feelings as well. Let them know they can ask questions and share their feelings with you at any time.

Correct any misinformation your child shares with you. For older kids, talk about the importance of making sure information is correct. It can also help to talk about how to find good sources for information.

What to do

Ask about your child’s fears and feelings. Kid’s minds can paint vivid pictures, which can make them feel unsafe. Listen without dismissing their fears or feelings. Reassure them by reflecting back to them what they say. It can help to share your feelings as well as how you manage your feelings.

It’s okay to not have all the answers and not know how to respond. Let your child know that even though you don’t know what is going to happen, you will work keep them safe.

For older kids, you may have to limit their exposure to big events. Share with your child how upsetting events can affect their mental health and mood. Let them know that if they start to become too upset you will intervene to protect them.

Use it as a teaching moment

Talk about how others might not be safe, or feel safe, and what you can do to help support them. It is important to always reassure your child that you will work to keep them safe.

Be careful about spreading bias and racism when talking with your children. Your kids hear a lot more than they let on. Use the event as a way to open a conversation about equality and equity. Talk about how different people may experience the event. Then discuss how problem solving and action could change future events.

Talk about any good things that come from the event to show hope and resiliency. This lets your child know that bad things sometimes happen, but good things can come out of bad things. It also helps kids know that things do not stay bad for forever.

Final thoughts

Having to talk with your child about big events can be hard, but it is necessary. It is okay if you don’t know what to say or you stumble. The important part is giving your child space to be heard and then letting them know they are safe with you.

Parenting Special Needs Children

Parenting Special Needs Children

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Parenting Special Needs Children

Parenting special needs children takes a different set of parenting tools.

If you are a parent to a child with neurodiversity or trauma, you know it can be a hard road. You deal with challenges other parents do not need to face. You know typical parenting does not work, but you may not know what you should do instead. Parenting special needs children requires special parenting. With a little observation and work your parenting can become easier.

4 Tips for parenting your child who has neurodiversity or trauma

1. View neurodiversity and trauma as a culture

You would not travel to another part of the world and expect them to act like an American. Nor would you be surprised when the people in another country acted in very different ways. You would automatically assume the difference was due to culture. In fact, you might even adopt some of the behaviors and language to try to fit in or show respect.

Neurodiversity and trauma are the same as visiting a new country. They should be treated as a culture. Neurodiversity and trauma both come with their own way of doing things. Both behave in a way to meet their needs.

And just as you would try to learn about a country’s culture, you should learn more about your child’s culture. Each neurodiverse child and child who has trauma is unique. How they react in different circumstances and their personal challenges are unique. But it does not mean that you cannot learn how to best interact with them. Learn what accommodations are the most helpful to them and what their limits are.

Often our children who are neurodiverse or have trauma are expected to fit in to our typical culture. Challenge yourself to meet your child half way. You will both be a lot more successful and you will have less behavior problems from your child.

2. Learn how your child communicates

Get curious and find out what is their why. Why do they act the way they do? It may seem like quirkiness or out of the blue, but all behavior has a reason why it occurs. Here are some examples for why behavior occurs.

Many children with neurodiversity or trauma struggle with eye contact. For children with neurodiversity it may be too distracting or intense. For children with trauma eye contact can feel too vulnerable.

Does your child have repetitive movements? Remember, these are things children do to cope and self-regulate in their environment. It’s what they do when they are feeling overwhelmed. If you want your child to reduce their repetitive movements you must first understand what is causing them stress. Changing the environment to better meet their needs can lead to less of a need to self-regulate.

Does your child have an intense need for movement? Movement and learning are intertwined in all of us, but especially in children. When we try to separate them, some children can’t figure out how to stop the motion while keeping their brain engaged. So they either need regular movement breaks or a way to stay moving while engaging.

By figuring out the why for your child’s behavior, you can better adjust your expectations. This will lead you to understand what your child can or cannot do. You can also plan in advance to help your child be more successful.

3. Learn how your child shows you their love

Neurodiverse kids and kids with trauma may have big and extreme behaviors. This makes parenting especially difficult because we tend to take the behavior personally. Especially when their behavior is extreme and includes physical violence or destruction.

But when things are calm, do you know all the ways your child shows they care for you? Take this week to write down when you notice your child being kind to yourself or another family member. Did they do something without being asked? Did they climb into your lap to be close? Did they do something that made your life a little easier?

Their big behaviors may eclipse the good times. They may not show their love in neurotypical or non-trauma ways. But that does not mean it is not there. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to look at their love from their eyes.

4. Understand your child’s need for rest & recovery

When a child with neurodiversity or trauma experiences an intense or prolonged activity it can be exhausting. And this exhaustion can lead to meltdowns or withdrawal. Even if they enjoyed the activity.

This result is because participation in the activity required them to use a lot of mental effort. They may have been masking, dealing with sensory input & overload, having to do more manual processing of data and emotions because of how their brain is wired, or navigating a heightened state of stress, just to name a few.

So this may mean your child needs lots of breaks or they need big resting periods after an activity. It might also mean that there are some activities that your child cannot do because they are too taxing. Not knowing the mental effort needed for an activity or the need for rest can result in meltdowns and withdrawal.

Keep a record of what activities your child can handle and which ones are a no go. If it is a no go, don’t try to force your child to do it. If you absolutely need to do it, then have a plan for bailing when your child indicates they are done.

It is also important to find your child’s activity to rest ratio. This will keep you from over scheduling your child and help prevent behavior issues. You can also help your older child take notice of what they respond well to and what they do not. This will help them learn to advocate for their needs.