When you adopt a child, it’s not uncommon to find yourself parenting a child who has been traumatized. The emotional regulation skills that all children learn in their early years were probably not developed as well as they could have been in the child’s pre-adoption life, and now you’re facing the task of helping your child learn how to manage their emotions.
It’s not always easy, but some strategies can help make this process easier. Here are some tips for dealing with emotionally dysregulated children who were adopted:
1.) Learn about trauma and its effects on developing minds and bodies.
2.) Learn about emotional regulation and how it develops in children.
3.) Identify what emotional regulation looks like for your child—what do they do when they get upset? How do they express anger? Frustration? Sadness? Joy? What helps them calm down when they get upset? What makes them get upset or escalate into inappropriate behaviors? And most importantly: what doesn’t work when they feel overwhelmed by intense emotions?
4.) Since every child is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Learn brain-based parenting skills and methods.
5) Identity the attachment styles for each family member and discover techniques that create greater security.
6) Take care of yourself. Self-care is not a luxury. It is necessary to be more patient and resilient with your dysregulated child.
Take a free course on Trauma-Informed Care in the home, school, and community at TraumaToolbox.com.
The school is back in full swing, and parents and teachers may be trying to manage misbehaviors. Don’t be too quick to assume that it is all about MOTIVATION and MANIPULATION. I call this the M and M misunderstanding. Take some time to look behind the behavior and answer the problem under the problem for greater school success.
Consult with Ron Huxley today for additional help…
The last two years have been one of daily uncertainty and fear, but a crisis is also a great revealer of the myths and idols we hold. It “knocks us off our thrones” and breaks our “assumptive worlds.” Our assumptions are the beliefs we hold about who we are and the world we live in…at times, like these, they don’t hold up. In fact, they can shatter into thousands of meaningless thoughts.
In social psychology, shattered assumptions theory proposes that traumatic events can change how victims and survivors view themselves and the world. We all have three inherent assumptions including “overall benevolence, the meaningfulness of the world, and self-worth.” They are the bedrock of our conceptual system, and as such, they are the ones we are least aware of and least likely to challenge. We become confident in our beliefs and use them to plan and act in daily living. If nothing challenges them they allow our lives to move along smoothly.
Sadly, traumatic life events shatter core assumptions, and coping with them requires a new effort to construct more realistic and viable assumptions. We have to rebuild our belief systems to fit the new world we live in.
The world is benevolent
The world is meaningful
The self is worthy
This can be painful for people of faith who end up questioning their faith. When our assumptive worlds shatter, it causes believers to questions the goodness of God. They might “assume” that God is silent or uncaring. The promises they believed must be wrong since things didn’t work out the way they “believed.” Trying to reconcile a good God to their adverse life situations may turn some to question themselves, wondering if they ever heard God speak into their lives or if some sin or trauma from the past has made them unworthy of mercy.
I mean, if God never changes, then the problem must be ourselves, right? Christians believe that when they become followers they are “new creations.” New creations have to have renewed minds to find new beliefs about God’s goodness and nature in their lives. Renewal is exactly what we need when our assumptions become shattered. Neurologists called this neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to restructure itself through training and practice, thereby creating new neuropathways in the human nervous system. Neuroplasticity, renewed minds, and rebuilt belief systems are about personal growth that is sometimes only possible after trauma.
The reason that believers feel peace after giving their lives to follow the Christian faith is that new neuropathways are being created. Transformation or growth is occurring. From a more secular viewpoint, life has a way of creating maturity in our thinking. The trick is how to not become bitter and negative afterwords.
There is a favorite verse of mine that goes: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV)” Prayer and meditation increase brain neuroplasticity and makes renewal possible. Allowing our minds to let go of distractions and slow down helps us focus on what we control and let go of what we cannot. In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is the path to serenity.
After a shattering event, people are able to discover strength they didn’t know that had in them. They also find new purposes and seek out deeper connections than before. Faith also grows in people after difficulty. They start to see deeper meaning and value in their life. This is called Post-Traumatic Growth in contrast to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Would you like assistance recovering from a shattering event or trauma? Need new tools for your organization or group? Contact Ron Huxley today!
The following is from a recent study on the effects of the pandemic on our mental health, substance use, and suicidality. It is safe to say that those of us who were already experience challenges before the pandemic have seen an increase in our struggles.
Even if we never had issues with mental health or substance use, the pandemic caused us to feel depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.
Data show COVID’s impact on nation’s mental health, substance use…
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released findings from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The data suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the nation’s well-being. Americans responding to the NSDUH survey reported that the coronavirus outbreak adversely impacted their mental health, including by exacerbating use of alcohol or drugs among people who had used drugs in the past year.
Several changes to the 2020 NSDUH prevent its findings from being directly comparable to recent past-year surveys, as explained below.
Based on data collected nationally from October to December 2020, it is estimated that 25.9 million past-year users of alcohol and 10.9 million past-year users of drugs other than alcohol reported they were using these substances “a little more or much more” than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began. During that same time period, youths ages 12 to 17 who had a past-year major depressive episode (MDE) reported they were more likely than those without a past-year MDE to feel that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected their mental health “quite a bit or a lot.” Adults 18 or older who had any mental illness (AMI) or serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year were more likely than adults without mental illness to report that the pandemic negatively affected their mental health “quite a bit or a lot.”
The 2020 data also estimate that 4.9 percent of adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. These findings vary by race and ethnicity, with people of mixed ethnicity reporting higher rates of serious thoughts of suicide. Among people of mixed ethnicity 18 or older, 11 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 3.3 percent made a suicide plan and 1.2 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among Whites 18 or older, 5.3 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.4 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among Hispanics or Latinos 18 or older, 4.2 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.2 percent made a suicide plan and 0.6 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among adolescents 12 to 17, 12 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 5.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 2.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year.
“SAMHSA’s annual NSDUH provides helpful data on the extent of substance use and mental health issues in the United States,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., who leads SAMHSA. “These data help to guide our policy directions in addressing such priorities as addiction, suicide prevention, and the intersection of substance use and mental health issues.”
Join me Thursday, September 16 at 12:15 pm (PST) for this live zoom event! We will be discussing practical parenting tools for adoptive parents. This is a 45 minute, interactive, seminar for adoptive parents and the professionals who work with them…and best of all it is FREE!
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It has been said that professional social workers, therapists, and front-line workers suffer from burnout 5 times more than other professionals. Perhaps everyone has experience has some form of anxiety or stress in the last couple of years. Burnout is a real, damaging condition with several emotional symptoms.
The signs and symptoms of burnout
The emotional signs of burnout might include:
Sense of failure and self-doubt.
Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated.
Detachment, feeling alone in the world.
Loss of motivation.
Increasingly cynical and negative outlook.
Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
Helping professionals often get their sense of identity from seeing others improve and get healthy and well. Emotionally, burnout can change helpers attitudes so they now resent or judge the people they are helping. There are many examples of long-term health or human service professionals who are just going through the motions. They are frequently irritable and grouchy, complaining about the people they are serving. They do the least amount of work possible and may even mistreat colleagues and clients.
The physical symptoms of burnout also include headaches and stomachaches. Burnout people tend don’t take as good care of themselves, eating poorly, drinking too much, and don’t exercise. Consequently, they are more likely to experience obesity and heart disease. Chronic stress will result in sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, and clinical depression.
Once you find yourself suffering from burnout, it can be difficult to turn your life around. Your best choice is to prevent burnout as soon as you see the warning signs. Here are a few helpful tips to avoid burnout.
No matter what your profession may be, it’s important to have boundaries. You can’t be available around the clock; this is simply impossible. So, to prevent burnout, it’s critical to establish boundaries of times you will not be available. This means that you won’t be in the office or available by phone or email during these times. If you are in a management position, it might help to post these hours somewhere or adjust your email auto-reply, so people know you will answer as soon as you are available.
Helpers help, right? We are rewarded for high we perform. We get praise for productivity. We start to believe that we are our work and cannot say no. This is a common but damaging mental state.
Have A Work-Life Balance
Besides just setting boundaries, you need to have time to do things that aren’t workplace-related. This means you have time for your hobbies, your family, and just doing what you love. This doesn’t have to be complicated, and it could be as simple as taking one afternoon a week to go for a walk in your favorite park. Whatever it may be, it needs to be something you want to do, and you need to put your foot down if work ever tries to interfere with your time.
It is no wonder that burnout destroys marriages. If you give your all to work, you have nothing left to give your partner or children. The world reinforces you for putting work first but this isn’t the correct order for physical and mental health. Some countries give more allowance for family leave, paid vacations, and publicly reward putting self and relationships over the job. These countries do not see a lower level of productivity. In fact, they have a higher employee retention and less costly turnover.
Create a Social Circle
We are social creatures. Our brains and nervous systems are designed to function optimally when we are in healthy relationships with others. This is true for extroverts as well as introverts. Social circles include having loving, trusting family and friends. It isn’t about the number of friends in your life. It is about the quality of those friendships. You can visualize a social circle like a target, with you in the middle, and concentric circles surrounding you. The smaller, closer circles will have people who are more intimate and highly trusted. Those in the outer circles are important for various areas of your life but are not part of the inner circle. The more people in the various circles, the more buffer you have to stress. The less number or quality of people, the more likely that stress will enter and negatively affect you.
Research demonstrates that even one trusted person can dramatically decrease the negative effects of stress and so, lessen the likelihood of burnout.
The 3 R’s of Burnout Recovery
Sometimes you can’t avoid burnout and have to find healthy ways to cope. Try using the 3 R’s:
Using the signs listed above, stop and check in periodically on how you are doing physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually. We call this the five finger check in. Do this with your partner or co-workers on a regular basis. Be honest. Shame likes to hide issues in darkness. Expose them so you can treat them.
If there are any signs of burnout in your life, make some changes as soon as possible. Reprioritizing your schedule, responsibilities, and relationships. Anything that is causing an inner drain should be seriously addressed.
Redesign your life. It is never too late to change your work or how you work. Many people, over the course of the last year, have started working remotely instead of going into an office. This has dramatically improved peoples mental as well as physical health. If you don’t have many people in your social circles, start by reaching out to a professional or take a risk by joining a club or group. Make sure you have a health balance of fun in your life. Take that vacation, turn off the screens, eat a good meal. Little efforts can result in big changes in your life.
The word “resolve” means to find a new solution to an existing problem. The origins of the word are rooted in old-world French and Latin languages to “go back” (re) and “loosen or dissolve” (solvere).
When trauma therapists say we have to resolve our traumas to find healing, this etymology makes sense: We have to go back to the trauma memories, experience them in a safe place, and at a safe pace to loosen or dissolve the pain and suffering they have caused.
Most people will not find this an exciting adventure, however. We start this process of grieving and releasing out of necessity. We can no longer bear the pain, and the level of suffering it has caused our health, relationships, and self-worth has to stop. That is when we are willing to start the work of resolving trauma.
Do all of our trauma memories have to be loosened from the ground where they were buried? Thankfully no. That can retraumatize us further. A trauma-informed therapist follows the principles of the 4 R’s, mentioned several times in this blog*. A trauma-informed program, organization, or system:
Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery.
Recognizes signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system.
Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.
Seeks to Resist re-traumatization.
Processing every trauma that we have ever experienced can be impossible and impractical. We don’t always remember all of our traumas. Many of them are implicit or hidden from memory, mainly when they occur in life. Our mission is to find the root of the issue that will bring healing and stop the sting of the memory. We won’t forget, but we can no longer let trauma memories control us.
We have to resolve or loosen the damaging association trauma has on our identity. It occurs because of the shame that surrounds the trauma event(s), making bad things that “happen to us” feel like we are “bad people” broken and damaged beyond repair. That feels true because memories are recordings of the past to prevent us from further hurt. But they are not valid because what happens to us is not who we are.
It is usual for a child to internalize their experiences. We are supposed to learn and develop. If good things go in, then good things can come out. What happens if bad things go in? You know the answer…
In this first video of five total video series on Building Family Resiliency we talk about how to manage anxiety in a time of uncertainty. Learn powerful tools that will help you and your children find freedom from anxious thoughts. Discover bodily-based strategies that don’t require lecture, rationalization, or complex ideas to bring peace to your life.
Get more free tools at FamilyHealer.tv or schedule a time to talk to Ron today!
What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a one-on-one form of psychotherapy that is designed to reduce trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to improve overall mental health functioning.
Treatment is provided by an EMDR therapist, who first reviews the client’s history and assesses the client’s readiness for EMDR. During the preparation phase, the therapist works with the client to identify a positive memory associated with feelings of safety or calm that can be used if psychological distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered. This is called the “Safe Place” and will be a baseline for the rest of the trauma work. The target traumatic memory for the treatment session is accessed with attention to image, negative belief, and body sensations.
Repetitive 30-second dual-attention exercises are conducted in which the client attends to a motor task while focusing on the target traumatic memory and then on any related negative thoughts, associations, and body sensations. The most common motor task used in EMDR is side-to-side eye movements that follow the therapist’s finger; however, alternating hand tapping or auditory tones delivered through headphones can be used. The exercises are repeated until the client reports no emotional distress.
The EMDR therapist then asks the client to think of a preferred positive belief regarding the incident and to focus on this positive belief while continuing with the exercises. The exercises end when the client reports with confidence comfortable feelings and a positive sense of self when recalling the target trauma. The therapist and client review the client’s progress and discuss scenarios or contexts that might trigger psychological distress. These triggers and positive images for appropriate future action are also targeted and processed.
In addition, the therapist asks the client to keep a journal, noting any material related to the traumatic memory, and to focus on the previously identified positive safe or calm memory whenever psychological distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered.
Ronald Huxley can provide you with EMDR therapy that will decrease anxiety, calm overactive brains/nervous system, resolve past trauma. Contact Ron today by clicking the schedule a session today or call at 805-7090-2023.