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― C. S. Lewis


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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Why The Traumatized Child Clings to Chaos

For the child of trauma, chaos is their normal.  It can be very frightening to find out that your entire life before, was not normal, even if you didn't like it, or were fearful of it.

Obviously, a child will be relieved in some ways to be away from abusive people in their lives, however,  the imprint on their little hearts and brains is not so easily erased. 
Many of them suffer unspeakable nightmares, confused feelings, anger, aggression and more.

As healing begins to take place, it is also outside of their known "comfort zone".  Having to relate to a parent in a healthy way can be a stress trigger. 
Why?  Because it puts them in a place of vulnerability, and they are afraid to trust, ever again.

It is hard work, to switch that world around to where chaos is not comfortable.  The thing is, they don't necessarily like chaos. It causes obvious pain. :(   But it is a place that they are used to.

Imagine if going on vacation was more stressful than an 80 hour work week under a slave boss!
This is what it is like for our kids.  They sometimes feel safer with the trauma.

Working through this over the last several years with our girls has given us an understanding we could never get from a book. :)  When we see our girls headed towards chaos, we know that they are overloaded and instead of doing the obvious (to us) speaking kindly, saying "I'm stressed"..... they might act out with old behaviors.  Or, even go back and dwell on the past, which digs up all sorts of trauma memories. 
They can cling to their old troubles like a toddler holds a favorite blanket. 

We don't want them to find unhealthy comfort in the past, but  comfort  in the now, and in the future!  Comfort is in having loving parents, a good and decent home, healthy relationships and in forgiveness.
But with forgiveness, just like us, they have to face some things in themselves.  It is hard work!  And they can get tired.

Last night, we experienced a set back with Alli.  She was full steam ahead going in the wrong direction!  Anniversary time is here.  Memories have been flooding in, and she continues to worry about her biological brother and sister.  We intercepted her and stayed attuned to her, staying in the present and not falling into fear. She shared her fears with us after a slammed door, refusing to come off of her bed, and some hurtful words and actions,  all in about 15 minutes.... and then we were able to calmly talk, snuggle and reconcile.
Today, she had her toolbox out and was ready to use any tool that would work. :)
Tonight, was even better.  She was able to attend youth group with her sisters with no problem!

I am so thankful for our sweet girl.  She is trying HARD to heal and do what is right.  Sometimes she gets stuck....That is ok. :)
I look forward to the day, and it will come, when she clings to her savior and not old habits.  There will be a day when she no longer clings to chaos when she is stressed, but clings to what is right and positive!
That day will come, I am sure of it.
In the process, I am refined.

(For those of you with children who come from hard backgrounds, keeping a blog or journal is so helpful! (you can keep it private!) You can go back and re read what you wrote and be reminded of things that happened at the very same time the year before!  Many of the memories Alli has been experiencing, she experienced last year at this very same time.  The year before, she couldn't really verbalize..... I find the record keeping very helpful and insightful.)


The Spicer Family said...

I love your blog. God has graciously given you a wisdom that is healing and I appreciate your generosity in sharing it.

Karen said...

We were having a rough time earlier this week and then I remembered that his last visit with his birth mom was April 30. He was 10 months old...

Anonymous said...

I thought for a moment you were responding to (had been prompted by) my response to something you wrote on FB.

There IS so much chaos in there... and while Anastasia is doing very well in terms of relationship to me and her dad, she seems so mired in the confusion of her crazy past when it comes to her sense of self, and relationship to boys and men. And, now, too - her relationship with Monnie. She works so hard in therapy, but the more of that onion she peels off the more scared I get.

Keri said...

We're heading into that time, too,christie. I was wondering why Nastia has been SO very clingy/bossy/overbearing/frustrated/exhausted. Your post rang the bell---its our anniversary season! Its been 8 years, so the signs are more subtle. But it never ceases to amaze me how I forget every year..lol! Our girls are healing, and evn if its slowly, I know who is leadng the way...and He knows what He's doing!

Christie M said...

Thank you Mrs. Spicer.
Keri it is good to hear from you!
Our sweetie is still having a hard time, but we are getting through it.

I'll probably blog about today's experience soon.

Annie, I am so glad that Tinka is doing well. It must be hard though.

Karen, yep, those anniversaries can sneak up on us..

Hilary said...

Christie, do you have any books you could recommend on children and trauma? This seems to be a big thing with the boys we work with here. Thanks. - Hilary

Christie M said...

Yes. :)

1. Beyond Consequences Logic and Control by Heather Forbes volumes 1 and 2.

2. The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis

Those are the 3 main ones for children of trauma.

There are more, including Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson (for all families)

And of course, scripture.

Anonymous said...

I also heartily recommend the books by Daniel Hughes; the most practical ones are: Attachment-Focused Parenting: Effective Strategies to Care for Children and Creating Loving Attachments. Christie, I think you'd love these, too.

Christie M said...

Annie you are right. Daniel Hughes book "Building the Bonds of Attachment in the Deeply Wounded Child", and "Facilitating Developmental Attachment" are the two that I have read. The first one, several times.

Thanks Annie. :)

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