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.

Anxiety in Children: A growing US problem

Anxiety is the fastest growing problem in the US today. More and more children are presenting with problems that show up in physical symptoms and behavioral problems at home and school.

Anxiety is defined as excessive worry over a variety of topics with three or more accompanying symptoms such as tiredness, trouble sleeping, panic attacks, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating and muscle aches. The presence of anxiety can lead to other medical problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches or chronic nausea.

The better you understand what is happening your child’s body, the better you can help him or her heal from fears and anxiety.

According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, “serious fear-triggering events can have a significant and long-lasting impact on the developing child, beginning in infancy…Children do not naturally outgrow early learned fear responses over time…and simply removing a child from a dangerous environment will not by itself undo the serious consequences or reverse the negative impacts of early fear learning.”

A child can be triggered just by thinking of giving a presentation at school, getting their homework right, seeing someone get sick or go to the hospital, reading about a disease, imagining monsters in their room, or seeing a bug crawl across their bedroom floor. Children are naturally creative and imaginative but this can become out of control thinking that results in fearful reactions. 

Emotional Hijacking

When children are triggered by a fearful or traumatic event, the brain and body will respond in a way to protect them from further hurt or harm. Even if this trigger is just imagined, it will have the same effect as if they are actually in a real, terrifying situation. The brain is giving the child a false signal that isn’t real or necessary. This signal comes from the emotional, mid-brain of the child in what is called a “fight or flight” response. The result is the emotional brain hijacking the thinking brain (the area in the front of the brain called the Prefrontal Cortex). This is very helpful if we are really in danger. It is not helpful if we are not. 

Fear could be described as “False Evidence Appearing Real.” 

Parents can help children learn how to “Face Everything and Relax.”

In order to deal with this emotional hijacking, parents must help children desensitize to stressful triggers. This is done through systematic exposure therapy, rational thinking, and bodily relaxation tools. We will explore many of these tools in this course. For additional help, it is recommended that you find a child therapist that specializes in anxiety disorders in children. 

Get more tools to help you and your child with anxiety, worry, fear, and panic at FamilyHealer.tv. The courses are free and you can get power-full tools for increased peace and joy today!

“Sticks and Stones: The Power of Affirmative Adoption Words”

The phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is a childish idea that isn’t really true. It is a saying that is designed to be a reply to an insult or ward off bullying and discrimination. Adoptive families know the pain that comes from social stigma and stereotypes that surround adoption. The reality is that words do hurt but they can also heal.

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af·firm·a·tions

ˌafərˈmāSH(ə)n/

1. the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed.
2. emotional support or encouragement.

Affirmative Adoption Words: to “affirm” is to state that something is true. It is a “higher truth” that helps us be who we were designed to be; face adversities, and aspire to be the best we can be.

The repetition of affirmative words can change habit patterns and attitudes. It isn’t just positive thinking. That implies there is no work involved or no struggle. Affirmations place ourselves into alignment with the best version of ourselves.

The best affirmations start with “I am…” This makes it real and authentic. It establishes our identity based on what we choose to be versus what others say we are or are not.

Affirmations cause us to take responsibility. It voices the belief that I am aware of something that needs to be changed and that I can and will do something about it. We are not victims. We are agents of change and healing to our families.

Beliefs are habitual patterns of thinking. They are often the result of our past experiences and contain old survival ideas that may no longer be needed. If we learned how to survive, we can unlearn any unhealthy patterns, and re-learn new, more powerful ways to think.

List 5 positive “I am…” affirmations:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Positive Adoption Language

The way we talk — and the words we choose — say a lot about what we think and value. When we use positive adoption language, we say that adoption is a way to build a family — just as birth is. Both are important, and neither is more important than the other.

Choose the following, positive adoption language instead of the negative talk that helps perpetuate the myth that adoption is second best. By using positive adoption language, you will reflect the true nature of adoption, free of innuendo.

 

Positive Language

Negative Language

Birth Parent

Real Parent

Biological Parent

Natural Parent

Birth Child

Own Child

My Child

Adopted Child; Own Child

Born to Unmarried Parents

Illegitimate

Terminate Parental Rights

Give Up

Make an Adoption Plan

Take Away

To Parent

To Keep

Waiting Child

Adoptable Child; Available Child

Birth Father; Biological Father

Begettor

Making Contact With

Reunion

Parent

Adoptive Parent

International Adoption

Foreign Adoption

Adoption Triad

Adoption Triangle

Permission to Sign a Release

Disclosure

Search

Track Down Parents

Child Placed for Adoption

An Unwanted Child

Court Termination

Child Taken Away

A child with Special Needs

Handicapped Child

Child from Abroad

Foreign Child

Was Adopted

Is Adopted

* Source: https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/talking-about- adoption/positive-adoption-language/

 

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!

Healing Strategies for Hurt Children (and adults)

The four-fold strategy for healing hurt children includes:

  1. Calm Down The Body/Brain
  2. Elevate Executive Functioning Skills
  3. Rewrite Our Narratives
  4. Deepen Our Inner/Outer Connections. 

This is a holistic approach that is “Bottom Up / Top Down /and Spiritual Surround”

Calming down the body and brain is necessary for the thinking brain to come online. When the nervous system is in a “fight or flight” response to stress, either real or perceived, the body will work to protect itself from harm. This is important if you step into the line of traffic and a car is speeding toward you. You don’t have time to pull out your phone and do a web search on “best ways to avoid being hit by a car.” Your body/brain system will do this for you without conscious thought. We have an amazing brain that can operate under very difficult situations that would be too overwhelming or painful to process all at once. This skill doesn’t serve us well, however, when it trauma is continually triggered at work, school, or home. In those situations, the emotional brain hijacks the thinking brain and dysregulation occurs.

Elevating the executive functioning skills is a misunderstood problem when working with a hurt child. Executive skills are centered in the prefrontal area of the brain (behind the forehead and eyes) and perform emotional regulation, self-control, planning and organization, working memory, and moral reasoning. These are areas that are naturally underdeveloped in children. In traumatized children, there is a dramatic delay that decreases brain size and disconnects signals needed to use these skills. Healing strategies will “practice” these skills in a playful format.

Re-writing life narratives is the third healing strategies. Trauma wants to interpret our identity and produce negativity in our hearts and homes. A hurting child will re-act out hurt on others and the world around them because this is how they see themselves. A new, more positive and accurate worldview is needed. Adults are the co-authors who modeling heightened awareness of thoughts and emotions and call out the child’s true identity.

Deepening inner and outer connections are not just the final goal of healing strategies. It is also where we start. The support of loving parents and professionals is needed because the work cannot be done in isolation. Negativity can be controlled in the “atmosphere” of the home even when it cannot be managed in the child. When the home is too cold or hot, the temperature can be adjusted to improve the general mood. Deep expression of compassion for self and others open the heart for healing. Additionally, spiritual practices, such as forgiveness, release the pain that blocks intimacy in our relationships.

Get more information on keynote addresses and trauma-informed training on “Healing Strategies for Hurt Children” by contacting Ron Huxley at 805-709-2023 or rehuxley@gmail.com.

A family is a group of power-full people…

Ron’s Reading: Keep Your Love On: Connection Communication And Boundaries

One of the most common aggravations experienced by parents is the “power struggle”. It usually happens when the parent has to get to work or needs to finish dinner or help the child with their homework. Right in the middle of this urgent time, the child decides to exercise their will and demand a treat or refuse to put on their shoes or wants to argue about some topic they really don’t know anything about. Regardless of the circumstances, the outcome is two yelling, arguing, snorting, bug-eyed people who just want the other person to do what they want them to do. No fun for anyone!

Why does this happen so often in families? Danny Silk is one of my favorite authors and I recommend his books to many of the parents I work within family therapy or parenting workshops. In his book: “Keeping Your Love On: Connections, Communication & Boundaries” he shares how a family is a group of powerful people who are trying to learn how to live in powerful ways. He writes: “If you heard someone described as a powerful person, you might assume he or she would be the loudest person in the room, the one telling everyone else what to do. But powerful does not mean dominating. In fact, a controlling, dominating person is the very opposite of a powerful person. Powerful people do not try to control other people. They know it doesn’t work, and it’s not their job. Their job is to control themselves.”

The trick, for parents, is not to demand respect but to create a respectful environment where non-respect, talking back and control simply can’t exist. There just isn’t enough oxygen for those negative elements to survive. Learning how to be a powerful and responsible person is one of the most important tasks of parenting.

You can get more information (and read along with me) on Danny’s book here: Keep Your Love On: Connection Communication And Boundaries

 

Are you Parenting a Prince or a Pauper?

Previously posted on Parenting Toolbox November 2014 by Ron Huxley, LMFT

There are areas in our parenting where we think like princes or princesses. We are fully confident in our abilities to handle a situation. There are also areas where we think like paupers, poor in attitude and low in confidence. A prince is rich in resources and doesn’t worry about a positive future. They know respect and honor from those around them. A pauper lives by survival skills and manipulation and secrecy is the game of life. A prince feels deserving of worthy and is valued and feels valuable. A pauper feels worthlessness, shame, and guilt.

Are you a consciously parenting a prince or a pauper? Do you feel confident and worthy to the task? Are you controlled by guilt, manipulation, and shame? Do you experience respect or disdain from your family members? Is your household ruled by love or fear?

It is possible to think like a prince in some areas of our lives and like a pauper in others at the same time. It may not be all of our parenting that suffers but there may be some key areas that are creating some big trouble. Take time to honestly evaluate where you are thinking like a prince or a pauper. Allow yourself to find new value and think differently about your family relationships. Create a self-care plan. Read, watch, listen or hang out with people who believe they are a prince and princess. They will model how to have a different mindset for parenting and life.

A parenting pauper has few or no tools to build a family of their dreams. A parenting prince or princess has many tools in their parenting toolbox. Get more parenting tools by using our online parenting ecourses in our Family Healer School!

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

parallel-parenting-500-x-250

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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6 Ways to Heal Your Vagus Nerve

inner-healing:

6 Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More

Source: http://healthycures.org/6-ways-to-instantly-stimulate-your-vagus-nerve-to-relieve-inflammation-depression-migraines-and-more/

I read an article yesterday that has me extremely excited about the implications. The article is called “Hacking the Nervous System” by Gaia Vince (http://mosaicscience.com/story/hacking-nervous-system). In the article, the author describes the experience of a woman who suffered from severe, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her eventual treatment with a device which minimized inflammation by simply stimulating the vagus nerve. What this means, is that by activating the vagus nerve which works through the parasympathetic nervous system, we can greatly influence inflammation and the immune system. The role of the brain on body inflammation can be profound. If you suffer from digestive complaints, high blood pressure, depression or any inflammatory condition, please read on. Let me explain the possible implications step by step.
What is the vagus nerve?
Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More 6 Ways to Instantly Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve to Relieve Inflammation, Depression, Migraines And More vagus nerveFirst of all, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body which originates in the brain as cranial nerve ten, travels down the from go the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ part (opposite to the sympathetic nervous system which is ‘fight of flight’).

Vagal tone
The tone of the vagus nerve is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when your breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. Higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress.

What is high vagal tone associated with?
High vagal tone improves the function of many body systems, causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation.

What is low vagal tone associated with?
Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more).

How do we increase vagal tone?
In the article above, vagal tone was increased through a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. The good news is that you have access to this on your own, but it does require regular practice. To some degree, you are genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Here are some ways to tone the vagus nerve:

Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
Humming. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM’.
Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism her is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
Meditation, especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.
Balancing the gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.
The implications of such simple and basic practices on your overall health, and in particular on inflammation are far-reaching. If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, digestive upset, high blood pressure or depression, a closer look at vagal tone is highly recommended. We’ve known for years that breathing exercises and meditation are helpful for our health, but it is so fascinating to learn the mechanism by which they work. I hope this short article has inspired you to begin a meditation practice, as it has for me, and also to look for other means to manage the body’s inflammatory response.

References:

Forsythe P, Bienenstock J, Kunze WA.Vagal pathways for microbiome-brain-gut axis communication. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:115-33.

Kok, B, Fredrickson, B, Coffey, K, et al. How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health: Perceived Positive Social Connections Account for the Upward Spiral Between Positive Emotions and Vagal Tone. Psychological Science 2013 24: 1123