Signs and Symptoms of Traumatized Children in School

The first step is to understand the effects of toxic stress on the developing child is to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma. 

Children and youth may not always verbalize that they are going through a traumatic event. It is up to the adults, in their lives to recognize the warning signs and know how to help. If you know what to look for, the child’s behavior will be speaking “loud and clear!” 

Young children, ages 0-5 can demonstrate activity levels that are much higher or lower than peers. They can startle very easily and be difficult to calm. Their play may reveal traumatic events over and over again or come up in little snippets of conversations. Clinginess, extreme irritability, reluctance to explore the world and long, frequent tantrums are also possible signs of trauma. 

In elementary school children, they may complain about frequent headaches or stomachaches with no apparent cause. They can regress to earlier developmental stages with thumb sucking or bed wetting. It can be difficult to transition them from one activity or another. Emotionally, they can verbalize scary feelings and ideas, burst into tears over little things and/or be extremely withdrawn and quiet. There might be reports of eating and sleeping problems. They might get into trouble more than usual at home and at school. And, they could have poor attention, distractibility and be unable to follow directions. 

All of this results in low school performance… 

Older children may talk constantly about their traumatic situation or deny that anything is wrong. Behaviorally, they can refuse to follow rules, be oppositional and defiant, disrupt classrooms, and act anxious or depressed. It is also possible that they are tired all the time, have physical complaints without any medical reasons, fall asleep in class, or engage in risky behaviors, like alcohol, drugs, and physical fights. 

Understanding these signs of trauma will empower educators to be more sensitive and resourceful in helping children in the classroom. 

You can learn more about toxic stress and trauma, in children, by taking FREE classes at http://TraumaToolbox.com

Many of the principles and techniques used to interact with students with trauma are broadly applicable to conversations with all students. 

However, it is important for educators to realize that the emotional and social needs of students with trauma are different. 

Clear, assertive, comfortable communication can establish trust and provide structure. 

Students should be made aware, in a clear, specific fashion, what their teachers and staff expect of them. 

School discipline policies should be communicated at the beginning of the year to all students, faculty, and staff, and should be consistently described. 

Allowing students an opportunity to inquire about, and even challenge, rules, will increase their sense of procedural justice. 

If students perceive the procedures as basically transparent and fair, they are more likely to go along with an individual decision or policy they do not agree with. 

Safe, Structured, and Sensitive Schools: 

Provide consistent rules and structure

Enforce those rules consistently and transparently

Explain why the rules exist

Remain open to criticism and conversation.

Having a class meeting where students can vote on rules, or discuss policies, can help increase their sense of justice and safety. 

Many students with trauma histories have not been given much agency or structure. 

It can be comforting & affirming for students to see that school or classroom policies have a basis behind them, and can be revised if circumstances change. 

Discussion & debate of class or school rules should be limited to certain pre-determined times in the year. 

After the rules have been set, they should be consistently applied. 

This way, the students learn that rules are open to revision, but that they do provide structure once they are in place. 

Reminders of expectations should come on a regular basis. 

Can take the form of…

Posters or signs,

Social media posts,

Morning announcements,

and Monthly or weekly “check-in” meetings.

Newly enrolled students should be briefed upon entry into the school; consider having your class help teach the policies to the new student. 

Take a FREE ecourse today on parenting, anxiety, trauma, and more at http://FamilyHealer.tv

Gathering an Audience of Appreciation

Have you been faced with a stressful situation where it is crucial how you perform, only to choke just when you need to be at your best? We all have! An article, by Scientific American journal, studied this experience and found some interesting insights.

The researchers found that negatively stereotyped social groups are some are at the greatest risk of choking under pressure. For example, if women are told that they are not as good as men at math, right before a math test, then they tend to do poorer on that test then if they were not told this statement.

One reason for the may be that the women are having to fight off the negative thoughts as they are trying to also person a complex task like solve math problems. This is what the researchers called “Increased Cognitive Load”. Others studies suggest that a negative stereotype increases feelings of anxiety and stress which affect performance.

As an artist, I feel the pressure of creating a painting when someone asks me to do one or wants to commission a specific image or scene. I can do great art, when I follow my muse and don’t worry about the outcome. That is because I am not worrying about whether someone will like it or question myself about my artistic abilities.

There is also the element of our identity. How we “see” ourselves or thing that others see us can affect our performances. Another researcher studied how positive stereotypes affect complex activities and found that this actually boosts ability to perform. Why don’t positive intrusive thoughts cause people to choke like negative ones? Because positive thoughts don’t focus on our feelings of worth as a member of a particular social group. As an artist, positive thoughts about my artistic skills increase my worth in this group of people.

Is the answer than to just pump ourselves up before a difficult task or pay others to tell us nice things about we are? Probaly not! As a psychotherapist, I tell my clients to explore their audiences of appreciation. Who values them? Who will be able to notice their efforts to change and will accept them unconditionally? A lot of emotional sufferers just don’t have enough awareness of their audiences of appreciation. Maybe my role as a psychotherapist is to be one of those audience members.

So instead of finding people to be “accountable to” in your efforts to set up a new New Years Resolution, try gathering together an audience of appreciation. Now wouldn’t that feel nice for a change? S

Ready to overcome anxiety, fear, and panic? Take a free ecourse at FamilyHealer.tv today and find “Freedom From Anxiety”.

Dealing with the Soul and Emotions

Everyone struggles with how to deal with their emotions. This is especially challenging for children whose neurological development has not matured to the point that they can use more rational thinking to deal with their emotions. It becomes even more problematic if our children have suffered a traumatic event or experienced toxic stress. 

Trauma and toxic stress impair all areas of development for children causing them to act and think below their chronological age. We call this gap “Age vs. Stage” to reference how a 16-year-old can act socially and emotionally like a 6-year-old. Often, the age that the child experienced the trauma is the emotional age they get stuck at even while the rest of them advance in years. This can open the eyes for many caregivers who are puzzled by the age vs stage problem. 

Adults don’t always have good solutions to this problem, however. We may not really know how to manage our own emotions. Perhaps we have had our own trauma that shuts us down when overwhelmed by stress or we haven’t had many examples of what healthy, responsible adults do with their intense feelings and so, we limp along with our own developmental journey. 

What most adults do is stuff their feelings. They might do this by dissociating from their bodily reactions and disconnect from extreme feelings of intimacy or closeness. They might push the feelings down until the boil over in a fit of rage, with everyone around the just waiting for the next volcanic explosion. They might try to be super reasonable and lecture their family and be perfectionistic with expectations no one can live up to. 

The healthier answer is not to try and live from our emotions at all! The secret is that you can change your emotions by changing what you believe. When you wake up in the morning, don’t ask yourself “How do I feel today?” Ask yourself, instead “What do I believe today?”

Families who are faith-based believe many things they don’t always practice. For example, we believe that God will take care of all our needs but we spend hours being worried. Our beliefs must go deeper into our subconscious minds where habits exist. You don’t think about how to do certain things in life, like driving your car or make dinner, because those thought structures are set in our subconscious mind so that we can spend more energy on other conscious thoughts and actions. Practicing what we preach has to become a natural reaction to life’s challenges as well. 

Faith-based families have a strange distrust of their own souls as well. Our souls comprise our body, mind, and will. Perhaps we distrust them because we haven’t changed our subconscious habits yet. This will be an on-going process, for sure, and one we can start modeling for our children as well. We also have to live healthy lifestyles, eating good food, engaging in playful activities, and getting rest and exercise. 

Our beliefs allow us to overcome shame from our past. This is what causes traumatized children (and adults) from believing they deserve a good life because they are unworthy of love, unwanted by biological parents, and damaged in some way – maybe many ways. This negative belief results in the sabotage of success, self-injurious behavior, suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, and fear. This list could go on…

God’s mercies are supposed to be “new every morning” and the same level of grace should be extended to ourselves as well as to other. We need to offer this to our traumatized children, as well. Whatever happened yesterday must be forgiven and our thought life must be taken captive. 

A powerful tool for ourselves and for our families is to make biblical declarations – out loud! Life or death is on the tongue and what we say can steer the direction of our lives (Proverbs 18:21; James 3). Speaking out our new beliefs is an act of faith because we may not feel that what we are saying is true but we are not letting our emotions guide our beliefs, we are letting our beliefs direct our emotions. 

Renewing the mind is how we are to live our faith governed lives and it is a continual process of maturity for our children and will help to close the age vs. stage gap (Romans 12:1-1). 

Start your declarations with the words “I believe” and see what happens to your own mindset as well as to your child’s attitude and behaviors.

“I believe” that I have all the grace I need to face any challenge or problem that comes up for me today.

“I believe” that I am worthy of love and the love of God, who is love, overflows from me to everyone I encounter today.

“I believe” that I am trustworthy, kind, and tenderhearted. I am able to forgive other people who have hurt by and not live in bitterness or seek revenge. 

  • “I believe” that my prayers are powerful.
  • “I believe” I am great at relationships and making friends.
  • “I believe”  that my family is blessed and I am a blessing to everyone around me.
  • “I believe” God is on my side and doesn’t hate me or punish me. 
  • “I believe” I can think right thoughts and make good decisions.
  • “I believe” that I am successful and have the ability to think and act creatively today.
  • “I believe” today is a new day, full of new mercies, and I can be happy and rejoice in it. 
  • “I believe” that the joy of the Lord is my strength. 
  • “I believe” I do not have a spirit of fear and God gives me power, love, and a sound mind. 
  • “I believe” that I can control what I say and everything from my lips speak love, live, and encouragement. 
  • “I believe” that I can remember everything I am studying and will accomplish everything that needs to get down today. 
  • “I believe” that believing the truth sets me free of fear and depression. 

Don’t worry if you don’t always feel what you say is true. Don’t be concerned or deterred if your children don’t agree with your declarations, at first. I believe that if you practice these declarations and start to create your own personal list that you will see incredible changes in your own heart and the heart of your family, today and over time!

Take a free online course to help your family heal at FamilyHealer.tv

Are you taking care of yourself?

Parenting a traumatized child can be challenging and exhausting work. It isn’t something that should be done alone without adequate support or a self-care plan. Parents can seem like tireless caregivers who sacrifice their own needs for the needs of others. They can be highly efficient people with incredible levels of compassion and mercy for others. This mercy can have limits!

They often continue their work to the point of exhaustion, leaving them emotionally bankrupt. You can give away what you don’t have. Like the airlines instruct us before a flight: “in the event of an emergency, a life mask will drop. Be sure to put on your own oxygen mask before trying to put it on your child.” The point is that you can’t save someone one else if you are passed out and parents of traumatized children can’t help them if they are burnt out. 

REST stands for “RE-store your Soul from Trauma.” 

REST stands for “RE-store your Soul from Trauma.” Our soul refers to our entire being: body, mind, and spirit. Each area requires specific attention. You can’t focus on one and ignore the others. If we are empty in one area, it affects our entire soul. 

The key is to find rest IN work, not FROM work. It is a mindset that places hope at the heart of our care of traumatized children and looks at our beliefs about what we are doing more than the activity itself. If you have two people doing the same activity and one has a hope-filled, positive attitude about it and the other is weighed down with bitterness and negativity about it, who will be more exhausted by the task at the end? Of course, the one holding bitterness and negativity. 

When I was a young man I used to work for the father’s landscaping company. At the end of the day I was physically exhausted but mentally I was pleased by what I accomplished that day. I enjoyed seeing the results of my labors in the beautiful landscapes we would create. After going into “trauma work” there have been many days that I come home mentally exhausted and this showed in my physical body as well. My wife would often comment about the dark circles under my eyes and I would have to go to bed early to get enough rest to do it all over again the next day. 

This is how it feels for the parent or caregiver of the traumatized child. You are mentally exhausted, emotionally drained, and physically worn out and tomorrow you know you have to do all again. How will this be possible? 

Renewing our minds. 

Renewing our minds is the answer. In Romans 12:2, the bible says that were are to renew our minds. This means that we have to think the thoughts that Jesus thinks about ourselves and our situations. We have to let go of the negative, condemning thoughts (Romans 12:1) and start agreeing with heavens way of thinking. 

Parents might ignore this instruction believing they have “good reasons” for their poor attitudes. 

  1. There aren’t enough skilled people who can take over for me or provide consistent respite.
  2. My children are too difficult for other providers to manage. 
  3. They don’t have the time or money.
  4. God will sustain me.  
  5. It’s easier if I just do it myself then try and get someone else to do or if I don’t do it, no one else will.

The list could go on and on, right? While they all have a bit of truth to them and they are “good reasons” they are “bad excuses” for not living a life of rest. God will sustain parents but they must use the wisdom He gives them by setting boundaries and take proper care of themselves as well. 

Caregivers can adopt an orphan mentality or victim mindset that patterns the thought process of their individuals they are taking care of…In psychological terms, we call this parallel process. In trauma-informed care, we call this secondary trauma. 

Overcoming your orphan mentality and REST.

I have said elsewhere that we are double agents. We take care of people who have been traumatized and we have experienced trauma in our lives as well. This might have been our motivations for becoming a therapist, social worker, foster parent, adoptive parent, etc. It isn’t a wrong motivation but you will be triggered and you may have limiting beliefs that prevent you from finding rest IN work. It may exhaust you more! 

You have to be a “son or daughter” before you can be a fully functioning father or mother.  You can physically seek spiritual parents to support you as you carry on the work of parenting traumatized children. You may not have natural-born families that are near or healthy enough to rely on mentally and spiritually. You can review scriptures that explore being adopted by God and how you are a brother to Christ and sons/daughter’s to God (John 1:12, Galatians 3:26, John 3:16, Mark 10:13-16, Romans 8:16, 1 John 3:1-10, Romans 8:4-17)

Renewing your mind and life for REST. 

Ask yourself, what am I believing about my situation that is causing me to be drained and overwhelmed. 

Am I starting this work off with an attitude of resentment or with hope-filled promises?

Do I believe that nothing I do will matter or no one will appreciate me for the things I do or will I focus on doing this for God and seek only his approval? 

Are we inviting God into our circumstances to partner with us and bring us divine appointments and be able to find moments of grace and joy in our day.

Do we love ourselves before we attempt to love others? That is a hole in a bucket that will leave you empty sooner than later for sure!  

Are all the burdens you are carrying really yours to carry or are there a few bags of troubles that belong to other people?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28  

REST in the little things.

When we think about rest we think spa days, two-week vacations in Hawaii, snuggling up in a cabin with a nice book and plenty of warm tea for a weekend. These are excellent ways to find rest but they require a lot of time, money and effort to pull off. If you can’t do these things then look for ways to find rest in the little things. 

Little activities are available at all times, are on-demand, and brief in duration. They don’t cost much or anything at all. They can fit into your busiest days and don’t require a lot of planning or sit up. 

Examples of little ways to rest include, but are not limited to: having morning devotions, watching a movie, pausing for a cup of tea or coffee, buying yourself a treat, taking the dog for a walk, playing a puzzle game on your phone or paper, taking 10 deep breaths several times a day, going to a yoga class or gym, cleaning up a closet or drawer, getting a massage, burning a scented candle, reading or telling a joke, taking a bubble bath, working on a hobby, listen to music, eat a healthy meal, drinking more water, talking to a friend, crying when needed, holding hands, going to church. You get the idea…

List 5 ways you will restore your soul in the next 30 days:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Spiritual Surround: How to shift the negative atmosphere of your home.

Join me for the third seminar in the “Healing the Traumatized Child” series November 26, 2018, from 9 am to 12 noon. The seminar will be held at GraceSlo Church on 1350 Osos St., San Luis Obispo, California.

Healing strategies for traumatized children involve helping children help within the spiritual atmosphere of the home. Let’s explore spiritual strategies that create compassion and loving kindness in our children and ourselves. Transform negative atmospheres into hope-filled realities with this practical training by Ron Huxley, LMFT.

Family Healer School

Ron Huxley’s FamilyHealerSchool.com provides families with FREE help on parenting, anxiety, trauma, child behavior, spirituality and more. You can find healing for you and your family with multimedia content, downloadable resources, quizzes, and inspirational meditations. Our vision is to see families healed and living in complete abundance.

Get more information now: Click here!

3 Ways to Manage Anxiety Before It Manages YOU

Anxiety is the #1 mental health problem in American society. A startling one in eight people describe experiences, every week, that would qualify as a clinical diagnosis of anxiety or panic. Fortunately, it is also one of the easiest to manage if you know how!

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious, or nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. An anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming and can be crippling.

Here are three powerful tools, taken from Ron Huxley’s “Freedom From Anxiety” course, that you can use to manage anxiety instead of it managing you:

  1. Pause and Breathe. Take several occasions throughout your day to “pause and breathe.” Set your alarm for every couple of hours to take a couple of minutes to put everything down and take 10 good inhale and exhale breaths. Notice what is happening inside of you and around you but don’t have any judgments about it or need to take any actions. Simply notice and take another breathe. It’s OK if your awareness shifts frequently. Just go back to your slow, deep breathing.
  2.  Detect and Redirect. Play detective by cluing into what you are thinking or saying to yourself when you feel anxious. Again, don’t judge it as good or bad but take note (literally write it down) of what preceded your anxious feelings. Begin to be aware of triggers in the form of situations and socialization that make you feel anxious. Redirect yourself physically to disconnect that trigger from your life. Learn to move to another room or avoid negative conversations or take another course of action that might not lead you into an anxious state. Have a “hot list” of the 5 most anxious producing situations or thoughts to avoid. Challenge these anxious thoughts by asking how much of it is really true? One hundred percent of the time true or 50% or 10% or 1%. Even if it is true 90% of the time, what is different about the 10% that isn’t?
  3. Positive Declarations. Once you have a “hot list” of anxious thoughts, start doing or thinking the opposite. Make a list of positive declarations that start with: I am… I will… I can… Today, I have… I choose… I live… My life is… I know… I take back… It can be hard, at first, to come up with a list of positive statements so enlist the help of others. They will be much more objective. Say them out loud even it if feels awkward as your own voice can be self-empowering. The more you say them the more believable they will become and the more present in your life. Use these declarations whenever the anxious thoughts start up in your head. Yell them if necessary!

Are you ready to be free of anxiety, fear, worry, and panic? Take Ron Huxley’s FREE online course: Freedom From Anxiety. Just click here now!

TriUnity Model of “Freedom From Anxiety”

The TriUnity Model of my online course “Freedom From Anxiety” refers to the three domains of our nature: Body, Mind, and Spirit. This faith-based approach to dealing with fear, worry, panic, and anxiety operate by focusing on our identity and destiny.

In the Bible, a favorite verse is Psalms 139 that declares, at the moment of conception, we were wonderfully and fearfully made. This original design struggles to present itself in a world full of brokenness and pain. Restoring this divine order is the central aim of the “Freedom From Anxiety” course.

To achieve this, the course addresses anxiety in the body by creating safety, turning off the false alarms, building NeuroResilience* to repair the limbic system and balance in the autonomic nervous system. It focuses on anxiety in the mind by capturing negative thoughts that lead to anxious feelings and behaviors. And finally, it concentrates on the spirit that rediscovers our true self and integrates disconnected aspects of the body and mind.

Another favorite verse is “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJB). This sound mind refers to the capacity to bounce back from traumatic events that are the root of much of our anxiety and fears. Having the correct alignment between body, mind, and spirit, allow us to build this capacity to have self-control and positive self-judgments in the face of anxious moments. 

A positive, God-centered identity allows us to have “ease” in life, living confidently and courageously. When we do not have “ease” we have “dis-ease” that affects every area of our nature. Having a higher perspective of yourself, in the world, brings a greater sense of peace. Viewing things from our bodily reactions and our mental experiences give rise to fear and terror. The world can be a scary place. Life can be overwhelming. One definition of trauma is when stressors overwhelm our capacity to manage them. Building spiritual capacity is key to our new freedom.

Learn more about how you can find “Freedom From Anxiety” by taking our free course at http://FamilyHealerSchool.com now.

*NeuroResilience is copyrighted by Ron Huxley, LMFT 2018