A great majority of human life is made up of boundaries. As we grow from early childhood, into the teenage years, and eventually adulthood, we are continuously surrounded by boundaries. Boundaries to keep us safe, boundaries to preserve healthy relationships, boundaries to keep us within the law (to name a few). But what do you do when you are parenting a child who can’t recognize boundaries?
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I want to get one thing straight to begin. This is not a post JUST for parents or caregivers. This is also for our children. When it comes to surviving this high emotion-season, our children need help surviving it. It can be all-crushing to their emotional well-being.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!” used to describe everything from exercise, to home improvement, to building your savings account. It’s even been used to describe parenting. For the most part, it’s a logical statement that helps us as humans to think long-term about life. But what do you do when you’re parenting a child who can’t think long term?
When we used to do in-person events (hello COVID!) the topic of biological family relationships often came up. And in many of those conversations with conference attendees, we’ve been asked, “What should I do if I feel afraid of a biological family member?”
Our children’s trauma history can drastically disrupt the development of a health attachment with you. In fact, it’s something we may spend their entire childhood, or adolescence, working to rebuild. But what about their relationships outside of our care? Or their future relationships? How do we empower them to recognize and build healthy attachments with others, who are trusted and safe?
We’re now weeks into the school year and, even though some children are doing virtual school, and some are in person, the fact is they are involved with a teacher. That teacher may notice that comprehension, or attention, is in short supply with your child. That begs the question: How much should you fill your teacher in on your child’s trauma history?
“You are in a marathon, not a sprint. Build your relationship slowly and carefully. As children grow our role will shift but we can still be an important part of their lives and a soft place to land.”
Children who have gone through significant childhood trauma see and experience the world differently. They also experience relationships differently. This begs the question: what do they need the most from a caregiver?
As a parent, you discover pretty quickly that the ways in which your parents parented you, won’t work with children who have a trauma history. Our entire approach must change. But how?