How does trauma impact the family?

A fact sheet from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

All families experience trauma differently. Some factors such as the children’s age or the family’s culture or ethnicity may influence how the family copes and recovers. After traumatic experiences, family members often show signs of resilience. For some families, however, the stress and burden cause them to feel alone, overwhelmed, and less able to maintain vital family functions. Research demonstrates that trauma impacts all levels of the family:

■ Families that “come together” after traumatic experiences can strengthen bonds and hasten recovery. Families dealing with high stress, limited resources, and multiple trauma exposures often find their coping resources depleted. Their efforts to plan or problem solve are not effective, resulting in ongoing crises and discord.

■ Children, adolescents, and adult family members can experience mild, moderate, or severe posttraumatic stress symptoms. After traumatic exposure, some people grow stronger and develop a new appreciation for life. Others may struggle with continuing trauma-related problems that disrupt functioning in many areas of their lives.

■ Extended family relationships can offer sustaining resources in the form of family rituals and traditions, emotional support, and care giving. Some families who have had significant trauma across generations may experience current problems in functioning, and they risk transmitting the effects of trauma to the next generation.

■ Parent-child relationships have a central role in parents’ and children’s adjustment after trauma exposure. Protective, nurturing, and effective parental responses are positively associated with reduced symptoms in children. At the same time, parental stress, isolation, and burden can make parents less emotionally available to their children and less able to help them recover from trauma.

■ Adult intimate relationships can be a source of strength in coping with a traumatic experience. However, many intimate partners struggle with communication and have difficulty expressing emotion or maintaining intimacy, which make them less available to each other and increases the risk of separation, conflict, or interpersonal violence.

■ Sibling relationships that are close and supportive can offer a buffer against the negative effect of trauma, but siblings who feel disconnected or unprotected can have high conflict. Siblings not directly exposed to trauma can suffer secondary or vicarious traumatic stress; these symptoms mirror posttraumatic stress and interfere with functioning at home or school.

Download the complete fact sheet at http://TraumaToolbox.com and learn more practical tools on how to have a trauma-informed home. Contact Ron Huxley today to set up a therapy session or organize a seminar for your agency or event at rehuxley@gmail.com / 805-709-2023. You can click on the schedule a session link now on the home page if you live in the San Luis Obispo, Ca. or Santa Barbara, Ca. area.

Just Like Me…

In a recent training on Trauma-Informed Care, I led the group through a mindfulness exercise that explored the nature of suffering. The goal was to bring a higher level of compassion for others in emotional pain.

Suffering refers to the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. We know, in our heads, that everyone goes through difficult times but in our hearts, we neglect to connect with others, in their pain. This is because we are in pain too!

Professionals, who work with hurt people, are double-agents. They provide trauma-informed care and services to others AND they have experienced trauma too. We can be triggered by others pain and this will result in a distancing of emotions in order to keep ourselves safe. We sometimes call this a “professional distance” or “objectivity.” It might help us feel safer but it will also disconnect us from the heart of what we are trying to do in serving others. How to maintain this balance is the subject for another discussion. In the meantime, try this mindfulness exercise called “Just Like Me…” Examine how you feel before and after reading through it. Use it weekly or as often as you need to reconnect you with others who have experienced trauma and loss.

“Think of someone you like or dislike that you want to expect positive feelings and forgive. It help to think of that person who is similar to you. Take deep breaths and repeat after me…

This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.
This person has in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This person has at some point been sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, just like me. This person has felt unworthy or inadequate, just like me.
This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me.
This person has longed for friendship, just like me.
This person is learning about life, just like me.
This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me.
This person wants to be content with what life has given, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be safe and healthy, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
This person wishes to be loved, just like me.
Now, allow some wishes for well-being to arise:
I wish that this person have the strength, resources, and social support to navigate the difficulties in life with ease.
I wish that this person be free from pain and suffering.
I wish that this person be peaceful and happy.
I wish that this person be loved.
Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.”

Need a therapist or trainer on healing from the hurt of trauma? Contact Ron Huxley today at rehuxley@gmail.com.

Take an online course on Trauma-Informed Care dealing with Trauma, Anxiety, Parenting, and more at http://FamilyHealerSchool.com

 

Co-Parenting Isn’t Working? Try Parallel Parenting.

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Many divorced parents are frustrated about their co-parenting arrangements. No matter what they try to do to work things with their ex, all of their efforts end up in conflict. Co-parenting feels more like game where there are no winners.

In these situations, the best advice is “no contact is no conflict”. If it wasn’t for the shared children they would have no contact and then there would be no problem but since that isn’t the case how do you co-parent with no contact? The answer is Parallel Parenting!

The situation reminds me of small children who are learning to share. Before they develop the skills to play cooperatively, they engage in parallel play. Both types of play look alike but when you watch more closely you realize that they are in the same room, with similar toys, playing next to one another but they are not really playing together. They are quite disengaged. Eventually, development will help create the skills needed for cooperative play. In the case of high-conflict divorce, parents may have to let go of the more mature cooperative parenting and shift to parallel parenting.

Parallel parenting purposefully disengages from the conflictual partner and concentrates on connection with the child. It may involve one parent focusing on dealing with the child’s school and the other on their soccer games. While both parents need to agree on major decisions, they will differ on daily logistics about bedtime routines, acceptable television watching, choice of baby sisters, and church attendance. When the daily heat can be turned down between parents, it makes the bigger decisions easier to navigate.

Parallel parenting protects the children. Research clearly demonstrates that high-conflict divorce results in higher rates of behavioral disturbances and mental illness later in life. More commonly, when a child tries to have a positive relationship with both parents who do not have a positive relationship with each other, they experience a “loyalty bind.” When the child is with parent A, he misses parent B. The child might even feel that he is being disloyal to parent B when he is with parent A and vice versa. This is easily intensified by parents who talk negatively about the other parent in front of the child. It can also occur when one parent acts like a victim causing the child to worry about them. Another way is leaning on your child for moral support and treating the child like the co-parent instead of a child.

It is a delicate balance to parallel parent and break down loyalty binds. A parents natural inclination is to protect their child and if they believe the other parent is harmful then…

The truth is that both parents are important to the child. To really protect them and find some sanity in the relationship, try using alternative methods to communication than face-to-face, like email or a notebook. Keep the wording factual about the child’s health, sleeping patterns, school events, weekend schedules, medical care, etc. Request separate school notices or records. Avoid showing up at the same events without prior knowledge. When you do end up at the same event, make a huge effort to demonstrate working together. You might actually find you can do it all the time!

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I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist providing faith-based, trauma-informed therapy for individuals and families. My heart is to see hurting people saved, healed and delivered. Currently, I am practicing in my Shell Beach, California office but travel internationally educating parents and professionals on adoption and permanency skills. You can schedule an office visit or Skype call right away. Just click here now…

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