Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween and the traumatized child

Halloween. It's my 5 year old son's favorite holiday. He loves seeing the scary masks and trying them on at the store. He likes to watch kid-appropriate scary movies and is huge Harry Potter fan. I never really considered what Halloween for a child with trauma and PTSD might be like until we brought home V. The closer Halloween has come the more anxious she has gotten. Shadows in her room have become more scary. We aren't sleeping well. Even the villains in Disney movies we've watched over and over are more scary. See, my sweet V has seen evil in the flesh. She has lived a nightmare.  And seeing the dark and scary is a trigger for her. Her hyper-vigilance became worse after a scary movie was shown at school. The nightmares started. Flashbacks of despicable acts.  The idea of strangers knocking on her door or people being disguised is beyond scary for her. This is going to be our first Halloween with a child exposed to trauma.

So, how do we plan to do this? One thing we plan on doing is focusing on "grounding." Grounding techniques keep the person in the here and now. Sensory Stimulation is a great way to do this. Having a stress ball handy, keeping a roller bottle of essential oils, hugs, and tapping exercises are just a few grounding exercises we plan to use.   We also plan on spending our Halloween in a "safe place."  Many churches have Trunk or Treat or other festivities. Many children feel safe at church and the costumes tend to be not as scary or gory.

Many outsiders have no idea our V has experienced trauma. And when you are at that costume party or neighborhood block party you might have trauma victims in your presence. Please try to be mindful of this. Don't sneak up on someone. Address them by name if you know who it is. Re-think that costume if you are going to be in the presence of children. And it's not always the scary or gory costumes that bother children. So many costumes for females and even little girls are sexual in nature. This is a trigger for our daughter. And might be a trigger to a victim of sexual abuse. We made our own costumes this year because so many that fit her were inappropriate.  Upon searching google for tween girl costumes here were a few that were displayed:
 

When I was a witch at this age my costume that was purchased consisted of a black dress like get up with a green face and black hat. And Minnie Mouse?? I never knew she wore a corset.  My point to this is that our sexualized culture makes life for a child of abuse even more difficult.  Feel free to comment below if you're a Veteran Trauma Mamma and you have advice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Been a While

To those who stumble upon this blog via google searches, or maybe even social media I'm sure you've noticed something. I stink at being a blogger. It's been months since I've written. Since I've been able to write. So much has happened. God has broken me and put me back together again. I've been given a new perspective. I have a day off today. I'm enjoying the beautiful fall colors, the crisp air, sound of rain drops, and the calm, quiet sound of a house without children :)

I originally started this blog for people to keep up with our adoption from Ethiopia. I had no plans on expanding our family any time soon. But God wrecked those plans. We have been given the privilege of being parents to a beautiful, broken 8 year old girl. Trauma. Multiple placements. Behavior. Attachment disorder. Institutionalized. And some would say too far gone to be in a family. Here's what we see: Trauma. Beauty. Redemption. A soul worth saving. A child worth loving. A NEED to belong.  It's been 6 months since her placement and to say it has been hard would be an enormous understatement. We've been in the trenches. And that's what trauma parents do.

 My eyes have been opened to a world I knew nothing about. As a mental health professional I thought I got it. I could pat the trauma mamma's on the back and offer support and advice. But I had NO idea what they were feeling. I had no idea that in Southern Indiana such few resources are available to children of trauma. Support services for parents are minimal.  And our mental health facilities for adults are meanwhile being overwhelmed by an influx of adults who never got the services they needed as children. I've spent time being angry. Angry at the system. Angry at her previous parents. Angry at her residential facility. Angry at God for asking us to do this. I felt like my joy was robbed and this burden was too much to bear.  After months of feeling this way I now have peace and joy. I have a purpose. My job on this earth is to love my children. To mold them into children of God. And to be an advocate. A section of this blog is going to be dedicated to our story of healing and redemption. Her story. Well, parts of her story. It's hers to tell. And I know God will use her.

"Be still, and know that I am God."
Psalm 46:10