How Will Understanding My Child’s Trauma Help Me As A Parent?

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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We have said this repeatedly over the past 5 years. When you gain an understanding of how trauma has changed your child, your entire parenting journey will change. Here's why..

I will never forget the moment my mind was fully opened to the reality of what our children have experienced and why they do and say the things they do at times. It was Christmastime, six years ago. On a cold December night, something triggered our child, who has a trauma history. We were popping popcorn, pulling out blankets, and settling down in our family room for a family movie night. For reasons that remain a mystery, he wasn’t having any of it.

The movie was the wrong movie, the popcorn was too salty, his sister looked at him, he thought movie night was stupid, and he wished it wasn’t Christmas break so he could go back to school. On and on and on until finally he lunged at his younger brother and tried to punch him. In our home, when someone displays behaviors that become unsafe or threatening, we step in, and lead them to another room to cool down. One of us will spend time alone with them one on one.

I was frustrated and couldn’t see the full reality of our son’s behavior that night. As he lay facedown in our upstairs bathroom, screaming obscenities, I fumed. I opened my mouth to say, “If you don’t knock this crap off, I’m gonna…” but was suddenly stopped in my tracks. In that moment my eyes were fully opened, and the veil was torn away. I realized he’s wasn’t a bad kid being bad. He was a scared child voicing his unmet needs through behavior.

That night changed the way we approached our children and how we saw their world. Suddenly we saw what was really going on with them. We realized they were voicing something we couldn’t understand. Understanding how chronic trauma plays out in a human being’s life gave us a brand-new perspective. And boy oh boy, did the adoptive journey change for us.

Fully understanding chronic trauma and how it changes the brain can transform your entire journey. Here’s why:

  1. You’ll respond to the world around you in a new way. That child in your neighborhood who bullies the other kids. The little girl in your son’s class who hangs upside down in her seat. Suddenly you start to understand that this may not be a bad kid behaving badly, but rather an unmet need being voiced from a place you know nothing about.

When I learned that chronic trauma hinders the use of logic and reasoning and instead propels the person into survival mode, I saw many everyday interactions in a new light. I can now see people with compassion and understanding.

  1. Your heart will break. Annette Breaux, a bestselling author and sought-after speaker, wrote, “Nine times out of ten, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry, it will break your heart.” So, so true! When you understand how trauma impacts your children, you become compassionate. That has changed the way we interact with our son.
  2. You will parent differently. I used to respond angrily to our son’s outbursts. I was annoyed when he would impulsively ask the same question over and over again. My own anxiety would heighten when he quickly jumped from one thing to the other. I’ve learned to respond differently now. Once I understood what his past trauma did to his brain functionality, I began to respond calmly, understanding that my heightened emotion would also heighten his.

I also use to struggle to understand how, even after being in our home for a long time, some children still melted down over what I considered “normal” things, such as our daily schedule or household rules. A child who’s gone through chronic trauma, even at a very young age, has learned to function from a place of survival, often absent from logic or reasoning. If they’ve gone through this neglect over a long period of time, it may be years before they learn to trust and connect in a healthy manner. This knowledge helped me adjust my expectations with my own children.

  1. You will move into action. I believe understanding and knowledge can lead directly to advocacy. When my heart breaks, my feet move. Over the past four years, I’ve grown to fully appreciate how our knowledge of the way trauma impacts our kiddos can change the world.

If you have been in the dark like I once was, it’s okay. Step into the light. Look at your precious child in a new light. Now take one step in front of the other from this moment forward.

Need help understanding your child’s trauma? We’ve got you covered…


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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.