Parenting a Trauma Kid

16439237583_fda9b3a25a_o.jpgOne 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.3409975634_7e11dcd3e6_o.jpg

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. 

 

Re-Unification

Screenshot_2016-01-26-07-30-35-1When I first became a Foster Dad, I truly believed that it would be extremely difficult to give a child back to a custodial parent. Boy was I wrong; nothing could be further from the truth.
Upon meeting my son and getting to know him, he spoke highly of his mom and his extended family. He told us about Christmas, birthdays, and family reunions positively. In his mind, the good certainly outweighed all the bad. In hearing his stories, I began to notice a shift in my thinking.
Instead of being selfish, and thinking that I was the best or only solution for him, I started to root for him and his mom. Because I cared so deeply for him, I wanted what he wanted. Because of that, I was able to extend some much needed grace to his mom, while praying that she completed her treatment plan to ultimately get her son back.
As awesome as I thought my house was, all this kid wanted to do was return to his home. I ended up helping him (and myself) by changing my attitude about what was best in the situation. I was able to show him what a strong man and a loving family unit looks like in with the intent that one day he can be and create the same.15722551403_9b07334c0a_k
Despite working to get him where he wanted to be – reunified with his mother -, I learned that one of the most important roles of foster parenting is to simply make sure he saw our home and family as his own and that he could return to us for comfort whenever he needed to. Despite the fact that my son did rejoin his mother, he will always be welcomed in my home and as a part of my family.

Playing the Father

 

After a rough night of practice, you will excuse me while I vent…

You see, I run a truancy program for high school boys and, to keep them engaged with school, I’ve turned them into a basketball team. I work with young men who are struggling to stay in school raise money for uniforms, form study tables to get their grades up, and I will offer support for better school attendance.
5931986666_0f9a8d2bd8_oDuring our practices and class time, we work on goal setting, decision making, and communication skills – even working to increase their employability skills. They are a very talented group of young men.

All this to say, that they are the most un-coachable band of misfits that I’ve ever been around. They continuously argue with each other, hate to be redirected, and don’t respond well to constructive criticism.

I have ten boys on my team and NONE OF THEM WILL GO HOME TO A DAD. Because of that, I extend them grace and pray for strength.

Every practice, I am reminded that I am so much more than a coach to them and I need to remember that.

After every practice, I break the huddle – 1.2.3.Saints.4.5.6.Family! I do this because the lack of a father figure is so visible that this small statement is the best that I can do that can give them a sense of belonging.Halftime Adjustments

As a foster dad, I am blessed with an opportunity to fill a void. Most of the boys that have come into my home have never had a dad play a consistent or positive role in their lives. Some have never even met their father… ever.

I see the challenges that they face, but I also see the potential that they possess. I know that it may seem challenging to think about raising a child that has not had a father in their lives; however, the consistency of a strong and steady hand, which can help that challenging boy become a young man is one of the most rewarding things about being a foster dad.

So, foster dads we have one of the most important jobs in the world.