Friday, July 14, 2017

Why Trauma Creates "Family Hermits"

Ever wonder why families that have children with early childhood trauma spend most of their time at home? 

Children who have had a relatively trauma free existence, expect the adults in their life to protect them. They expect good things from life and as a result are calm and adaptable. On the other hand are those children who have learned to expect pain and suffering, as such, they are constantly bracing themselves for the next round. Even after these children are removed from a bad situation, they continue to rely on what their past has taught them. These children are always at a 5 on the 1 - 10 panic scale, and everything or nothing will send them shooting past a 10 and into total dysregulation.

Any situation outside of what appears to be the daily, boring routine  can bring on anxiety. Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways such as hyperactivity, chatter and acting out. If the parent tries to intervene rather than accepting their help, the child is likely melt down. If the parent does not intervene, the child melts down as well.

If the child has an insecure attachment or none at all, he will not trust his parents to keep him safe. So he will be hypervigilant and do everything he can to prove to himself that mom and dad are not strong enough to keep him safe. 

These children are barely able to keep a grip on their "sanity" at home where they know the routine, and triggers are at a minimum. These children will act like they have never had a day of training in their lives when they are outside of the controlled environment of home.

Then you have the child who finds life in general overwhelming. Playing with his peers is to confusing, causing him to melt down. He needs an external brain and when he can rely on his parents to provide that, he can handle a very low key existence. He needs his parents constantly by his side, calming him, redirecting him and pulling him aside when he begins to get over stimulated. This same child, who is fairly calm at home, does not do well when he is out and about. For one, he is over stimulated. Two, he doesn't know what will happen next. Three, people are talking to him, trying to interact and his brain cannot keep up. Guess what happens? You got it, another melt down!

Now these melt downs are bad enough, but what the public doesn't see is the days, sometimes weeks, it takes for the child to return to baseline. Remember baseline for them is a 5 versus a 1 like it is for an emotionally healthy child. During this calming down period, the rages are more intense and more irrational and the whining and disobedience is off the charts.

The worst part about it is that anything out of the ordinary can trigger meltdowns. 
-Church, and most of us go at least once a week
- grocery shopping - another weekly activity
- family gatherings
- having friends over
- going to a friends house
- dentist and doctor appointments
- staying at a baby sitter

And of course you can't forget the times a sibling is away overnight, the family gets the stomach flu or someone has a birthday. Then there are the traumaversary's, the anniversary of a traumatic happening. The child may not remember what happened but their little bodies never forget. If you have multiple trauma children in the home, they will be triggered when their siblings melt downs creating another level of stress n trauma.

Quite frankly, is it any wonder we tend to be hermits, as one friend lovingly classified her family? We are barely keeping a grip on our family's sanity because of all the chaos and trauma. This creates what appears to be overly protective, slightly paranoid (or is that totally paranoid?) parents who do all in their power to prevent another melt down. The parents know that the next melt down may dissolve the fragile emotional stability their family is struggling to maintain.

When we stay home and don't do anything beyond the ordinary day to day tasks, our children can sometimes thrive. Then I begin to think they are doing better and we do something like go to the cabin, which we did this past weekend. I am always brought firmly back to earth. 

Doing your best to maintain a stable emotional equilibrium is exhausting, especially when it goes on for year after and year with what appears to be little to no improvement. Eventually you get to the place where you as the parent are so burned out that you don't have the emotional stamina to attempt anything beyond the usual day to day life. Eventually you find your family is just happier at home....until the next time the desire to, "Be like everyone else," starts bothering you, that is!

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