One of the more challenging things about being a foster parent is parenting a kid that has experienced trauma. It is hard enough to parent a child without their historical information. Add trauma to the mix and you begin to scratch the surface of the different levels of issues and challenges your kiddo faces day to day.
Recently, we had a meltdown with our ten year old foster daughter. Upon being re-directed for the wrong she had done, she proceeded to go into her room and destroy it. Toys were thrown everywhere as she turned over her own tubs and boxes. She was highly agitated – her way of dealing with not getting her way.
Until this point, she had only been shown violence and verbal abuse. When the people in her life didn’t get their way, they would yell, fight, and destroy whatever was in their path.
This is what she learned. It was the only way she knew how to react in that situation.
However, it is extremely difficult to think about that in the moment as a parent. Your emotions are high, and the adrenaline levels are on a ten. My first thought, was to punish her by taking all of her toys out of her room – removing a potential barrier to keeping her room clean. My wife had to remind me that we shouldn’t punish her for getting mad and throwing her belongings everywhere since she was only displaying what she had been taught.
In comes the tricky part: her trigger is being told to clean her room because, in the past, she was beaten if her room wasn’t cleaned properly. As foster parents, we must create a safe place for her. If I take away her toys then I am punishing the reaction she has learned through experience. But, if my daughter and I clean her room together, then I am teaching the moment.
Several things are happening in this teaching moment – I am creating a safe place in one of the most important spaces in the house- her bedroom – and the two of us are bonding while cleaning this space. Finally, I get to praise her for a job well done after her bedroom is transformed from a disaster zone back to a ten year old’s pretty-princess palace.
When parenting a kid that has experienced trauma, the things that have helped me are to take the emotion out of it. This is very difficult sometimes since it is hard to function when you, yourself, are angry and upset. It is imperative to recognize your own triggers!
Recognizing your own triggers are sometimes difficult, but it is imperative to parenting children that come from a past of chronic trauma. Trauma informed parenting has changed the way that my wife and I parent our children.
Want to be the best possible foster parent? Learn more about trauma informed parenting habits as soon as you can.
Tip: My wife conducts Trauma Informed Parenting training throughout Michigan. Please fill out this form to get more information about booking Stacey or myself for a training today.