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Author Topic: 8.03 | Helping our children deal with trauma  (Read 10540 times)
marlo6277
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« on: May 25, 2010, 05:42:39 PM »

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.  "POOH!" he whispered.  "Yes Piglet?"  "Nothing" said piglet, taking Pooh's paw.  "I just wanted to be sure of you."

Introduction

A child's behaviour is not learned in isolation.  Children spend most time in their homes, and this is where they are most influenced.  Some families have suffered from the same debilitating symptoms for generations, or through continuous breakdowns, because the contribution of the child-caregiver relationship has not been adequately assessed and utilized.

No one needs prerequisite parenting skills to become a caregiver.  On the contrary many caregivers may not understand how the past contributes to their relationship with the child.  To earn the trust of children who have had their trust shattered many times in profound ways, adults must prove that change is possible by changing the way that they meet their child's needs.   Many of us caregivers cannot deal with the situation of our children without first understanding the meaning we've found in our past, and present life experiences, and showing our changes to our children.  When we understand ourselves and build coping skills, we will have the energy and awareness to make the next step to guide our children through the same process.

With this connection made between us as a facilitator of strategies and emotional support, empowerment is found.  The consistency of an emotional and physical bond with us - the caregiver - is the best way to give a child a chance to develop healthy self worth and a bright future.  We can only achieve this goal by being committed as an involved caregiver.  For children, the consistency provided by parents working on the same therapeutic activities means that they are being guided as they need to be in all aspects of life.

   TOOLS: When are the children of a BPD parent at risk?

Since we have discussed the ideas of when the child might be at risk, I would like to look at some ways to help our children cope with traumas in their lives.

"A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark."

-- Robert A. Heinlein


"Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."

-- James Arthur Baldwin


In this workshop, I would like to cover some of the following areas:



    • Traumatic events that children might experience


    • What are some signs of distress to look for in our children?


    • Have you experienced any of the same events as your child - either as a child yourself or as an adult (perhaps during your relationship with a BPD SO? Your relationship with your own BPD parent?)


    • What tools do we as adults have at our disposal in order to process these events differently than our children? Are there similar tools we can use for our children? Different ones?


    • What are some basic ways we can help children exposed to trauma?


    [/list]
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    « Reply #1 on: May 25, 2010, 11:03:37 PM »

    Thank you for this great idea for a workshop, Marlo. I think piglet's desire to have someone he "can be sure of" is exactly what a child needs, especially after (or while) being exposed to trauma. Both my parents had personality disorders, so I didn't have such a person in my life as a child. But I was lucky enough to find a person I could be sure of to marry, and his steadiness for so many years has helped me to heal.

    I can see many echoes of the traumas I faced as a child in the parenting situations I face now. I look forward to discussing trauma, healing, and parenting with others in this workshop.

    How would you like us to start?



    B&W
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    « Reply #2 on: May 26, 2010, 05:47:17 AM »

    B&W  xoxox 

    I'm so glad you've jumped in!  xoxox

    Excerpt
    I can see many echoes of the traumas I faced as a child in the parenting situations I face now.

    Would you care to share any examples of the traumas you faced? How have they affected your parenting style?

    I would like to start by gathering list of 'traumatic' events.  What makes these events traumatic?

    What are some Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post) that we can look for to tell if a child is experiencing distress or trauma?
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    little doggy
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    « Reply #3 on: May 26, 2010, 08:25:22 AM »

    Marlo, really good topic. Im a d ad to s7 and d5. They have struggled through a very difficult separation with lots of emotional abuse from bpxw. s7 probably took the brunt. His way of reacting ? He kept running away. It was like his poor little mind couldnt cope with all this stuff happening around him that he didnt understand. He couldnt process it, he could solve it - so he ran. Every day at school he would race out the classroom door. Initially i thought he was trying to run home to his mum (the new carer for his bpmum) but I think it was just his mind saying "its too much, get away, run away". He is better now but when momster is particualrly mean or applies real emotional pressure on him, he still runs.

    Luckily we have worked together so he knows not to run and to come back and try talk it through calmly and gently.

    But it was (and still is) his way of coping with this intangible stress and trauma around him.
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    Do. Or do not. There is no try.


    « Reply #4 on: May 26, 2010, 12:35:14 PM »

    I can understand how traumatic events "leave marks". It's part of our natural way to store those memories and an attempt by our brain to help protect us. A traumatic event will trigger our nervous system and benchmark the event in our mind, so that we are aware in the future.  

    It's like when I touch a hot stove and burn my finger, the memory is stored so I don't do it again.  I may be afraid the next time I see a stove, but once I'm able to assure myself that I can protect myself from a burned finger by not touching that stove, my fear will eventually subside. It's the natural and healthy process of how our brains are wired to help keep us safe.

    Unfortunately, sometimes as children, when a single event is of great measure (even if only to the child) or perhaps ongoing, that storing of the event(s) can become trapped into our nervous system.  It's where you'll see a great deal of the PTSD symptoms in adolescence and adulthood (American Pyschiatric Association):

    Re-experiencing the traumatic event



    • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event


    • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)


    • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)


    • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma


    • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)


    PTSD symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing



    • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma


    • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma


    • Loss of interest in activities and life in general


    • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb


    • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)


    PTSD symptoms of increased arousal



    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep


    • Irritability or outbursts of anger


    • Difficulty concentrating


    • Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)


    • Feeling jumpy and easily startled


    Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder



    • Anger and irritability


    • Guilt, shame, or self-blame


    • Substance abuse


    • Depression and hopelessness


    • Suicidal thoughts and feelings


    • Feeling alienated and alone


    • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal


    • Headaches, stomach problems, chest pain


    I'll explain one of my oldest SD's traumatic events and share her experience.

    At 10 years old, she witnessed her mom being assaulted by a boyfriend in the front of the car.  The boyfriend took the keys from the ignition and walked into his house and her mom followed while SD10 stayed in the car with her two younger sisters.  She quickly called her dad who kept her on the phone and both the police and Dad came to rectify the circumstances which included the girls being removed from the situation along with a restraining order.

    Her coping skills for the next few weeks involved getting up at night to make sure the doors were locked. She felt afraid that he would come back. She felt better when she could double check.

    One of the long term affects have been that she hates the smell of campfires. It reminds her of the boyfriend because they went camping a lot.

    When we saw the boyfriend in a Walmart a couple months ago, she grabbed my arm and gasped like she had seen a ghost. She tugged at me and begged me to go the other way and we did.  I reminded her that she doesn't have to worry about him anymore and she agreed but wanted to excercise her right to stay away from him.  I made light of it with her and her sisters like we were covert spy operatives ducking in and out of aisles. We giggled as the sound of our flip flops hardly made us unnoticable.

    It's an experience I'm sure she will carry with her for her lifetime.  She felt helpless in that moment and very afraid. In our talks, I remind her how proud I am that she took care of herself (and her sisters!) and I think she feels she had a sense of doing the right thing and gaining back her power.  She knows she's safe now and the boyfriend is gone.  She holds him responsible and knows that she did everything she could and none of it was her fault.

    Next step is to go camping with our family and have lots of fun. Maybe create new memories to get rid of that trigger of when she smells a campfire.  xoxo

    ~DreamGirl
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    « Reply #5 on: May 26, 2010, 03:48:18 PM »

    Excerpt
    His way of reacting ? He kept running away. It was like his poor little mind couldnt cope with all this stuff happening around him that he didnt understand. He couldnt process it, he could solve it - so he ran. Every day at school he would race out the classroom door. Initially i thought he was trying to run home to his mum (the new carer for his bpmum) but I think it was just his mind saying "its too much, get away, run away". He is better now but when momster is particualrly mean or applies real emotional pressure on him, he still runs.

    The fight, flight or freeze response is the natural reaction that our bodies have in trauma situations.  The ultimate goal - keep ourselves safe.

    From an article entitled Flight, Fight, or Freeze here: www.thrivingnow.com/for/Health/flight-fight-or-freeze/ (Emphasis added)


    Say you are a 5-year-old kid on the playground swinging. You're enjoying the day and the warm breeze. You are all alone, lost in your own daydreams. Suddenly, the 8-year-old school bully pulls you off the swing and threatens to hit you. You have three instinctive responses.

    You could try to escape (Flight). Running away makes a lot of sense if someone is bigger than we are! We are often surprisingly strong and fast when we feel threatened. The primitive brain pumps adrenaline and other chemicals through our body, giving our muscles lots of power. The chemicals also cause us to be more resilient to pain so we can function, even if we're wounded.

    If you escape, your primitive brain will define your successful flight as "proof" that you can take care of yourself... .that you are empowered and capable... .that you can handle what the world throws at you. While you might be appropriately wary of going to the playground by yourself now, you most likely will not have developed a strong negative associations (fears) with swings, daydreaming, or being alone.

    Because you were "successful," the details of the event do not get "trapped" in the primitive brain and get passed to the cognitive brain (our modern "thinking" brain). That means you can make logical decisions about what happened and decide how to keep yourself safe in the future.

    If flight is not an option, you could attack the bully (Fight). Again, the chemicals surging in our bodies when we are threatened give us increased strength. You might win, or at least startle him enough so that you can get away. If you do fight and get away, the primitive brain sees a positive outcome, and the cognitive brain processes the experience in a way that is likely to leave you more resilient rather than "irrationally scared."

    If you can't get run away, and you can't fight, (or you had previous traumas that precondition you not to even try!), your primitive brain will cause you to Freeze.

    Freezing is a useful survival mechanism. Just as the bobcat might lose interest in the frozen rabbit, but kill it if it sees it moving around or struggling, a frozen child might be boring or frightening to the bully. He might just decide you're not worth it and leave you alone.

    Whether freezing causes the bully to back off, or you receive some swift kicks while frozen, you still have an overload of survival chemicals in your system that must be purged! How?

    Wild animals will normally shake, tremble, run in place, or do other activities that discharge the effect of these chemicals on their body. The natural human process is to do the same thing. We also have the option of receiving comfort and support at home (which releases counteracting chemicals). Unfortunately, of us are trained out of allowing our body to release this energy in a natural way. We are told to "calm down," "pull it together," "stop overreacting," and the ol' favorite, "big boys don't cry."

    And for many frightening experiences, "home comfort" is not available because it was at home the trauma occurred! Or, our response is trivialized. We are told to "get over it," "it's not a big deal," and another ol' favorite, "it's your fault... .you should have known better."

    When we naturally purge the survival chemicals, it shows the primitive brain that we did survive, and we are safe and resilient. This allows the cognitive brain to start processing the information and throwing out the irrelevant associations. Studies show that you can actually feel more empowered and capable after you've faced challenges and survived... .as long as the trauma is discharged in a healthy way.

    However, if we do not discharge the trauma, the primitive brain never releases the event. It stays frozen. Since the cognitive brain doesn't get to process what happened, strange associations may occur. We might become terrified of daydreaming, swinging, or being alone out in the open... .whatever the primitive brain grabbed onto as the "cause" of the helplessness.

    Since helplessness and disempowerment are intensely frightening emotions, we may go to extremes to avoid those feelings. If we never unfreeze, the primitive brain may also decide that we are not good at handling life events... .or even that the whole world is unsafe. This leads to an underlying feeling of fear and inadequacy. When we are not sure we can survive, we feel more insecure in our skin... .whether we show that by walking around with shoulders slumped or hiding it behind false bravado.

    So what do children do when they cannot find 'home comfort'?
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    « Reply #6 on: May 26, 2010, 04:04:00 PM »

    DG ~ those are excellent examples of Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post) Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post) we can be on the lookout for.  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

    Excerpt
    Next step is to go camping with our family and have lots of fun. Maybe create new memories to get rid of that trigger of when she smells a campfire. 

    What we as adults have in our arsenal is the ability to look at our own past and present in order to help predict our future.  Children are focused on the present.

    When we are stuck in traffic in rush hour, we all have our thoughts that go through our heads... ."Geez... .not again." "I was really hoping I'd miss rush hour today."

    If you are stuck in that traffic with children who haven't experienced it before, what happens? "What's going on?" "Are we there yet?"

    We know that we are stuck in traffic. We also know that eventually we will get out of it. Just like we've done every day for how long?  We know that we might be a little late, but eventually we'll get there. Because our past has told us that. It will all be okay and we'll eventually get out of the traffic.

    But children don't know that. They might be thinking "Is there an accident?" "What's going on?" "Should I be worried?"

    They might also be looking at us for cues on how to react.  If we are stressed out (even though we know we'll be okay), then the child might get stressed.  If we are getting angry, then the child might become scared. 

    They have no past experience to draw on so that they know it will be okay in 10 or 15 minutes.

    But if they are in the car with us next week and the same thing happens, what might they be saying or thinking? "Is this going to be the same thing as last week?" "Oh geez... .stuck in traffic again! We are always stuck in traffic!"

    And right now your SD is 'stuck' on what her brain knows about campfires.  The smell of them remind her of something bad.  I think by planning this outing, you are doing something so important!  xoxo  And now she will be able to smell a campfire and she can remember that it also goes with s'mores and stories and family fun.  xoxox

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    « Reply #7 on: May 26, 2010, 04:53:53 PM »

    Really interesting discussion. The comparison to PTSD is quite compeeling isn't it.

    Marlo, I really like the traffic analogy for my S. He wasn't so much running 'away' from the trauma or 'bully' (altho he probably had every right to). It was more that he was 'stuck' in a situation he couldn't control or understand. And the cars were blasting their horns, and there seemed to be sounds of anger and frustration. He knew something wasn't right but began to worry that things were serioulsy wrong. He just wanted to jump out of the car and get away.

    I agree he would look to me. How was I acting ? I always tried to stay calm and relaxed. Play games or just talk as if this was a normal event and it will soon pass. I think over time that has really helped him.

    The traffic jam analogy is a very good way to describe his situation. When he's a bit older I think I'll use to to help him understand what he went through. Thanks Marlo.
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    « Reply #8 on: May 31, 2010, 10:18:14 AM »

    I am going to copy and paste from a post I made on Black & White's workshop - TOOLS: Mindfulness for children under stress

    Common stress indicators for kids--signals that kids need more coping tools or other help

    Some examples of recognized trauma events

    Abandonment

    Rejection

    Witnessing violence

    Incest

    Bodily Injury

    Death

    Witnessing death

    Family Disaster

    World disaster

    Multiple traumas

    Molestation

    Sexual abuse

    Neglect

    Verbal Abuse

    Physical abuse

    **Perceived threat to the life of a Primary Caregiver - either through an accident/illness or threatening the child "I'm going to send you away to live with strangers!"

    Stressful events that can also be trauma

    Substance abuse

    Parental separation

    Sibling loss

    Breakdown of relationship

    Life threatening illness

    Attachment difficulties resulting from behaviour of a parent or inconsistent parenting (eg due to access visits being limited by one parent or the other) and parental alienation

    *********************

    Has anyone experienced any of these occurrances in their lives? Have any of our children experienced any of these things?  Can you describe the event and the impact it had on your child/still has on your child?

    If it happened to you - what was your coping mechanism? Have you been able to heal from it?
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    « Reply #9 on: May 31, 2010, 01:05:13 PM »

    Excerpt
    Would you care to share any examples of the traumas you faced? How have they affected your parenting style?



    Sorry it took so long for me to address your good questions! There are so many examples it's hard to know where to start. 

    In the scope of traumas this isn't a huge one, just a daily thing in the life of a child with a BPD parent. When there was some kind of accident (spill, dropped item that broke), my mother would often react in an extreme way. She might scream and/or rage. If she did it herself, she would often self-castigate (I'm so stupid, so clumsy, etc.) and it would be my job to comfort her. Sometimes she would cast blame when she was at fault. So when something simple happened, let's say a spilled glass of milk, I would have a tumble of chaotic and powerful reactions (hypervigilance, anxiety, fear, empathy, even anger at myself or the object for "bringing about" whatever was to come). Mostly I would freeze as a protective response and then try to read the way the wind was blowing.

    All of this happened so instinctively I really had no idea. I know over the years I've taught myself to calm down when there's a minor accident of some kind, but apparently not quite enough... .Fast forward to a recent time with my DD, who spilled a glass of water across the floor. I was calm and said "hang on and I'll get something to wipe it up." When I came back, she was staring at the spill and had her little shoulders all hunched up. I touched her on the back and handed her a cloth to mop up the water. She still didn't look at me (unusual). She said, "Are you going to speak to me in your firm voice?"

    I asked her if I usually speak to her in my firm voice (this is what we've mutually agreed to call my "serious parental" voice) when there's an accident and she said, "Sometimes." We were both wiping up the water at this point. I asked how it makes her feel and she said sometimes it feels bad. So I apologized and said that I know accidents happen and she's not at fault, and I'm sorry if I get anxious but if I do, it's not because of anything she did. My mother used to get really mad at me when there was an accident and the last thing I want to do is do the same to her. (We'd been talking about my mother, which we rarely do, so on the spot I decided to open up about that.) She got curious and said "Why did she get mad at you if it was an accident?"

    I said that was a good question and that I think it's because accidents made HER anxious (like they do me sometimes) and that it was easier to yell than to feel bad about herself, but I didn't want to do that and would work on my own reactions. I don't actually yell, by the way, but I obviously get a bit stiffer and I know I still sometimes feel anxiety. So now it's my job to be a better observer of my own reactions and make sure that I own them and don't push them onto my DD.

    There's a start, anyway.

    B&W
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    « Reply #10 on: June 02, 2010, 01:04:28 PM »

    Excerpt
    I asked her if I usually speak to her in my firm voice (this is what we've mutually agreed to call my "serious parental" voice) when there's an accident and she said, "Sometimes." We were both wiping up the water at this point. I asked how it makes her feel and she said sometimes it feels bad. So I apologized and said that I know accidents happen and she's not at fault, and I'm sorry if I get anxious but if I do, it's not because of anything she did. My mother used to get really mad at me when there was an accident and the last thing I want to do is do the same to her. (We'd been talking about my mother, which we rarely do, so on the spot I decided to open up about that.) She got curious and said "Why did she get mad at you if it was an accident?"

    I said that was a good question and that I think it's because accidents made HER anxious (like they do me sometimes) and that it was easier to yell than to feel bad about herself, but I didn't want to do that and would work on my own reactions. I don't actually yell, by the way, but I obviously get a bit stiffer and I know I still sometimes feel anxiety. So now it's my job to be a better observer of my own reactions and make sure that I own them and don't push them onto my DD.

    I think your example is an excellent example of how our own experiences and messages that we've received in our past have the ability to impact our children either positively or negatively. 

    I also think that it improved your attunement with your daughter.  And that is a key element in helping our children through traumas that they face.

    The bond between the parent or caregiver and the child is the most profound and emotional of all relationships.  There aren't many other relationships that are capable of emitting such intense emotions that we feel with our parents and/or children.  And the relationships are built through connections which give meaning to our experiences.  And these experiences give us our sense of self and how we relate to the world and people around us.

    Emotional connections are established in so many ways and some of those ways are through story-telling, comforting and showing appreciation and understanding for the child's point of view.

    When these experience increase, so does the attunement between the parent and child.  When traumatic events occur, the level of attunement can be weakened, causing a child's inability to emotionally gather themselves and carry on.  However, individuals have an inherent need to meaningfully attach to each other, and have the capacity to reconnect despite difficult circumstances.


    Dozier et al 2001; Siegel & Hartell, 2003

    In your case, all these instances and experiences you share like this will be valuable to your daughter when she is faced with some form of trauma later. It's like putting money in the bank for a rainy day.

    And this experience, if she had a parent with BPD, might have differed greatly as was the case for you.  In turn you are changing your daughters thoughts and future approach to how she will resolve the same occurance in the future.

    That whole experience, even if it seems trivial to some people, still creates a sense of emotional security for your daughter. 

    Excerpt
    I don't actually yell, by the way, but I obviously get a bit stiffer and I know I still sometimes feel anxiety.

    In this instance, you are able to recognize your own symptoms of uncomfortableness with the situation and are then able to stop, think and change your thought process in order to provide a more comfortable experience for your daughter.

    How have you taught yourself to recognize it and calm yourself over the years?

    What are some ways we can teach ourselves to recognize the affects our own traumas have had on our thought processes?
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    « Reply #11 on: June 04, 2010, 09:19:15 AM »

    Hi again,

    Yes, attunement is a good concept to consider in this issue. One problem pwBPD have is a lack of attunement with others and, as we all know, a tendency to cycle from too close (engulfment, no boundaries) to too far (abandonment, rage, rejection, and estrangement) in their relationships. You really cannot be "in sync" in a positive way with a person who has no comfortable level of closeness and also has an unstable identify. As a child I was mostly engulfed, sometimes abandoned, raged at, and rejected. As an adult, I am estranged from my mother. So for myself as a mother, I've had to figure all of these things out sort of from scratch.

    When my daughter was an infant, a bit of engulfment was actually called for. A new mother, especially one who is nursing, is in close physical contact with her baby a huge amount of time. I sank into this in some ways with tremendous pleasure and a sense of responsibility. But that level of complete engulfment with another human being could also give me some feelings of panic. I'd been swallowed whole as a child by my mother's needs; here I was again, with a very demanding and needy creature who wanted all of me and didn't care for my own need or sense of self. Her infancy required that I start to work out simple ways to nurture myself even while nurture her and also to create some boundaries (such as her spending a bit of time with her dad so I could take a shower!) that were normal yet at first felt terrible. I think a lot of new parents are overwhelmed by the 24-7 full-on demands of a baby, but for an adult child, there may be special issues to work out.

    Attunement wasn't something I understood until we achieved it. We both seemed to click into place with each other.

    How have you taught yourself to recognize [symptoms of trauma] and calm yourself over the years?

    What are some ways we can teach ourselves to recognize the affects our own traumas have had on our thought processes?


    Great questions. I'll look at the first one but will have to come back to the second, as it's a big one.

    Trauma sometimes results in numbness or strange effects in situations that can seem unrelated to the trauma and take you by surprise. You may have learned to tune out bodily sensations and experiences of emotion. Trauma survivors often have to go through a specific training (in therapy, through reading, through practice) to become aware of their own internal states. It takes a commitment to nonjudgmental observation of yourself. A very simple example, I hunch up my shoulders when something is stressful to me. I have done that all my life, but over the last few years, I've made an effort to identify it as a signal. "Hmmm... .my shoulders are hunched, what is that about?" I have to take some time to figure it out and then apply it to the situation, perhaps recognizing that I need a moment alone, should take some deep breaths, would benefit from talking it out with my husband or (now that she's older) my daughter... .Actually being aware of your own internal states is the first step.

    A lot of coping with my PTSD is about self-awareness: recognizing the panic reaction I have to certain types of trapped situations, the discomfort I feel when someone comes up behind me, the sensitivity and irritability to certain sounds--and then deciding on some action like leaving the situation, using self-soothing techniques, or opening up about my experience. All of that can be hard to do on the fly when you're in the midst of parenting, which is why I learned to take time outs and give myself at least a minute or two alone to check in and calm down.

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    « Reply #12 on: June 04, 2010, 09:41:53 AM »

    Excerpt
    To earn the trust of children who have had their trust shattered many times in profound ways, adults must prove that change is possible by changing the way that they meet their child's needs.

    I really like this quote! Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

    Because I was beaten/physically/verbally/sexually abused as a child and then kidnapped by uBPDparents as an adult, I ask myself how did others see me as a child? I do know that it seemed my uBPDparents were always speaking for me and giving explanations. I recall a bloody nose that I was totally confused about and uBPDm giving the explanation that "you shouldn't have cried so hard... .look what you did... gave yourself a bloody nose" I don't think so. Then another occasion, my lip was split open and my only memory is having it stitched up. But the "explanation" I was told by uBPDparents and I believed for years is that I was jumping up and down on a metal grate over a window well!    First of all, I am not a daredevil and secondly I hate heights and I have NO recollection of me doing that. But I accepted their explanations. And obviously others accepted their explanations. Because I am a musician and did well in school (kind of nerdy), they would tell people I was "sensitive and shy". Of course, at home I was beaten, verbally abused and sexually abused. I have an aunt who for years was a social worker who she says she helped get kids away from their abusive parents. I have told her in the last 6 years that I wish she had paid closer attention to how my parents treated me and rescued me as a child. She was speechless and seemed unfathomable for her to question her older sister's behavior. Why?

    So I would say to watch how the kids interact with other kids and with adults. I know I was shy around other kids and usually just had one friend that I hung out with. I only dated one guy on a blind date when I was 16 and then again not until college. My husband was the first guy I ever kissed. Yes, some serious issues because of what my parent's put me through.

    I wish I had felt safe enough to tell someone that I was being hurt by my parents. But no one seems to want to believe that parents could be evil to their own flesh and blood.
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    « Reply #13 on: June 04, 2010, 11:22:10 AM »

    Survivorof2  - Your experiences as a child, and then again as an adult, were extremely traumatizing.  I'm so very sorry that you endured those things at the hands of the people who are supposed to provide you a safe haven.  And then to have other people (your aunt) not recognize it (or not allow themselves to see it).

    How have those experiences affected raising your own children?
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    « Reply #14 on: June 04, 2010, 11:26:59 AM »

    Excerpt
    So I would say to watch how the kids interact with other kids and with adults.

    Children show the impact of trauma mainly through behaviours and symptoms.  It's the child's way of trying to make sense of their perceptions. 

    These behaviours can also be misunderstood.  We all have our past experiences that we carry with us.  Sometimes our own personal point of view from our own experience clouds our ability to see the message that the child is trying to get across. 

    What are some ways that we can see a situation from the child's point of view as well as our own?
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    « Reply #15 on: June 04, 2010, 11:49:31 AM »

    Excerpt
    How have those experiences affected raising your own children?



    When I was kidnapped as an adult, it was with my 7 day old son and 20 month old daughter. Once uBPDparents had my kids, they began telling me to "get out of our house". I stayed so I could be in my kids' lives, but mainly because I felt I had nowhere to go and that nobody wanted me (I was told that specifically by uBPDparents). My kids tell me they think of me as their sister. There is so much that happened, obviously. :'(

    Now... .I try to give our kids as much freedom as possible even to the point of them thinking I am abandoning them. I feel as adults the best gift I can give them is freedom to find themselves: what they believe, what they like, who they like, etc.

    When I was kidnapped, I was forced to divorce our kids' dad and to lie to them about why. Then when I got away from the uBPDparents, I was able to reconcile with my husband and remarry him. Our kids were really confused at my actions.

    I do work to love them as they need to be loved for who they are, not who someone else wants them to be. They still have to do with uBPDgrandparents, although they both live over a 1,000 miles away from them, thank God! There are lots of fleas to deal with. I work to give them truth, affirm them, love them the best I can as I recover, mature, and figure things out myself.
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    « Reply #16 on: June 04, 2010, 04:36:17 PM »

    My son has LDs (learning disabilities).  When he was in high school the only way the school thought to deal with his disabilities (besides constantly belittling him) was to give him hours upon hours of detention (he does move slowly, no getting around that).  I saw this as legalized abuse and it stimulated my own feelings of my own abuse.   When I got so angry at the system, I was completely ineffective at dealing with them and they probably thought I was a total nutcase, at the very least a "difficult parent".  Really, they deserved the anger, but if I could have been balanced at least they would have to respond to me in kind (at least I think so - really I think the public system is pretty BPDish anyway).   

    My point is that by stimulating my own issues with abuse, it was really difficult if not impossible for me to respond appropriately to what was going on and I wasn't as effective as I might have been.   (At the end I just let him stay home from school, it was the only way I could get them to stop giving him detention - I mean he is a concert violin and violist and had professional gigs at the time - and they thought the best use of his time was to sit in detention!)   OK so obviously I still have some healing to do surrounding this.

    My point about this story is that my son was being traumatized.  His trauma was different than mine.  Still because I was so busy rattling my own issues I wasn't nearly as present, helpful and proactive as I might have been for him.   

    LD

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    « Reply #17 on: June 04, 2010, 11:29:34 PM »

    Ok, sorry if this is long, but I think that a lot of really helpful questions were asked.

    My situation is a little odd, in that my current household is sort of a non-nuclear family, with my boyfriend, his brother's two kids (4 and 6) and their mother, and me. It works, it's just not "mom + dad  + 2.5 kids + picket fence." A picket fence wouldn't really fit in with our neighborhood.

    What are some signs of distress to look for in our children?

    I guess, with either kid, I've known them since they were born, or close to it. I know their personalities fairly well, kind of as they're growing in to them. One is pretty shy naturally and quieter, and the other is naturally more extraverted and boisterous. A gross departure from what is "usual" for either kid usually means there's something else going on. Either extreme agitation, or extreme withdrawal, seems a decent indication that they're distressed.

    In their situation, part of the reason why our living situation is what it is, is because the kids' father has a problem with substance abuse, and is in prison. The older kid, takes more after his father personality-wise, maybe partially from having had him around for longer. Or else he just does. Their mother made the decision to be no-contact with their father when he was processed until/if he gets and stays clean. Now our living situation is fairly stable, but was kind of tumultuous for a while when they were very small.

    Have you experienced any of the same events as your child - either as a child yourself or as an adult (perhaps during your relationship with a BPD SO? Your relationship with your own BPD parent?)

    My father also has problems with substance abuse (And likely BPD/NPD.) Obviously that lead to a great deal of turmoil, physical and mental abuse when I was a child, until I was a teenager. I definitely relate to feeling "unsure of" a parent, where they're going to be on a given day, or if they're going to be around on a given day.

    What tools do we as adults have at our disposal in order to process these events differently than our children? Are there similar tools we can use for our children? Different ones?

    I'm in therapy, which helps for learning tools. In some ways I'm not a terribly well equipped adult. Some things still throw me for a loop that maybe are "normal" every day things. I have more time and experience to know that in the long run, things end up however they're supposed to end up. I have a little (sometimes very little) perspective on how time changes things, and on what is truly livable and what is not. I'm learning the ability to talk about things as they happen, which I think is a good tool for little kids to learn is ok to use. I was not encouraged to express any feelings, which is why I'm learning it now.

    What are some basic ways we can help children exposed to trauma?

    I think encouraging them to talk about what they're feeling is a really important tool. If there was one thing I wish I would have been "allowed" to do as a child, it was talk about what was going on in my head with any kind of audience. Also being allowed some personal space, to process what was happening, or to play, or to just be a kid without having to also act as a parent/babysitter/repairman/chef/maid. "Regular" kid things, I think help.

    Would you care to share any examples of the traumas you faced? How have they affected your parenting style?

    My father was very mentally, physically, and emotionally abusive. I don't think there was a day that I spent with him that I didn't get hit, or expect to be hit in some way, even from a very young age. I acted as a parent (not a very good one) and babysitter to my younger siblings, even when my parents were home. My mother was typically disinterested in raising children, and my father's philosophy tended toward "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Or more accurately, "Shut the f_ck up before I beat your @ss, worthless ungrateful little hit_." (Similar line of thinking though.) In general, his "style" was to be very aggressive and relied heavily on intimidation. (Although honestly, how hard is it to intimidate someone who has to stand on a chair to get a spoon from a drawer?)

    I'm not really a "parent" per se. Kind of- uncle-in-law, but we live together. I usually am not the primary provider of discipline in the house, (that would be their mother- and rightly so, for them "Mami" is the source of the most discipline, but also the most comfort) so I get to play the most. Most of the activities that I do with the kids are just- kid things. Blowing bubbles, household science experiments. I'd much rather have the chance to teach them things than be yelling. I think I tend to be very non-confrontational, and quieter. If they feel like talking, I try to listen, but if not sometimes an activity, or playing is a better way to kind of check in. Most of the time with both kids, I do a lot more listening than talking.

    So what do children do when they cannot find 'home comfort'?

    I think that kids maybe- tend to one extreme or another. Either acting out to express discomfort with the current situation, or withdrawing to find comfort in a more solitary way.

    How have you taught yourself to recognize it and calm yourself over the years?

    Currently work in progress... .ask me in a year. ;}

    What are some ways we can teach ourselves to recognize the affects our own traumas have had on our thought processes?

    I try to check in with my mood. If I notice that I'm more panicky, or anxious than usual, or more depressed, something is probably getting me stuck in a negative loop. Countering with a different line of thought sometimes helps that.

    What are some ways that we can see a situation from the child's point of view as well as our own?

    A lot of the time, I'm not that far off. In many ways, I'm 8 going on 65. If I'm not sure how either kid is seeing something- I ask. They can both talk, and even if they don't have the vocabulary to fully or eloquently express what they're feeling or seeing, they can usually come close. I don't really see how else I could know what their point of view (and both kids have a slightly different point of view) without asking them and listening to what they say. Anyway, I'm kind of- just the tallest kid in the house in a lot of ways.
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    « Reply #18 on: July 15, 2010, 07:12:44 PM »

    Thanks for this workshop!  Sorry for being so slow to respond. 

    I want to call attention to a couple of resources that this site and a child therapist I see referred me to that have helped me to understand what is going on for my two SDs, ages 10 and 6.

    **First, the article "How a Mother with Borderline Personality Disorder Affects Her Children" was one of the first I read that addressed empirical research on the impacts of having a borderline mom on a child.  This article can be found on this site at:

    https://bpdfamily.com/bpdresources/nk_a108.htm

    This article discusses the effects of BPD on kids as something that influences a child's attachment to his or her mom/parent and some possible impacts when this bonding process is damaged due to mom's mental illness and/or behaviors.  More info on this topic can be found in looking at literature related to attachment theory.

    Some of the interesting tidbits I gleaned from this article are that kids of BPD moms have a higher than average rate of "dazed glares" and glance away from the parent more than the norm; that learning disabilities and cognitive dysfunction are more common amongst kids of BPD moms than the norm.  This article also provides some issues typical for different ages. 

    **The child therapist I see referred me to work done by Vivienne Roseby on responses in kids to living in a high-conflict family.  My therapist provided a list entitled "chronic trauma and character structure" that identified characteristics of kids exposed to trauma versus not exposed.  Here they are:

    1. Difficulties with basic trust

    2. Egocentricity (others don't matter)

    3. High levels of anger (often not expressed directly)

    4. Emotional constriction

    5. Hypervigilant

    6. Rigid oversimplification (of thought and feeling)

    7. Entrenched introversion (turn in, not out)

    8. Compromised reality testing. 

    This list was very helpful for me in attempting to understand if SD10 was exhibiting symptoms of trauma.  First, I noticed that both my SDs 10 and 6 were not very strongly exhibiting these characteristics.  However, I did notice that SD10 exhibited many of them after long periods of time with mom, or when stressed.  SD6 did not exhibit many of these characteristics, though when I first dated her dad she was very introverted and showed signs of "emotional constriction" and "difficulties with basic trust," as her pre-school teachers pointed out. 

    Vivienne Roseby also co-authored a book on group therapy for kids in conflicted, violent, and separating homes titled A Safe Place to Grow that has many interesting exercises recommended for professionals to use with kids--good for ideas on how to address tricky issues with different ages of children, as well as good for understanding what kids exposed to trauma are likely to seem like. 



    **I cannot find the article, but have it somewhere... .there was an interesting article that looked at factors positively correlated with children of high conflict families/divorces NOT developing problems associated with high conflict.  Some of these were:

    --the child's charisma

    --presence of hobbies and activities in which the child is engaged

    --whether the child does well in school

    --friendships with trustworthy adults other than the parents

    --friendships with peers

    --stability of at least one home environment

    --availability of family other than parents, such as grandparents

    These are all resources that have helped me to figure out when is what I am seeing likely to be related to BPD and how I can help the kids through it.  When the kids' BPD mom refused to let them continue to see a therapist, I sought a child therapist to help document what I was doing, to  give me step-parenting advice, and to help me to understand what was happening with the kids--especially to understand when the trauma is "too much."  This last bit he has not really helped with--it is so subjective.  But he has really helped me to contextualize what I am seeing in the kids and to evaluate my responses. 

    In addition to some of the indicators discussed below that I have seen in the kids, this past year, SD10's health really just fell apart.  No major cause, just really low immune system, lots of infections (pneumonia, strep, staph, you name it).  Food allergies.  Lung problems.  Getting sick A LOT.  Faking sick, too.  Also, broken or sprained toes, two concussions, etc.  I felt this was a real indication of her having a very stressful time at mom's.   Most all illnesses originated at moms, UNTIL we noted that was the case in response to her mentioning that mom said all these illnesses happened at our home.  Once we mentioned, "hmm... .if that is the case, why have we taken you to the doctor on most mondays you come to our house for the last 3 months, and then you are well when you leave?"  Big mistake.  The next week, she made a habit of getting sick at our house for 3 weeks in a row. 

    In addition, SD10 has learning disabilities that seem to come and go. 

    I have shown some of these articles to her teachers and have been able to help them make modifications to SD10's individualized education plan so that educators know more about what is happening with her.  Also, we have continued to emphasize helping SD10 and SD6 develop consistency in other areas of their life including our home, by encouraging ongoing relationships with special adults, their grandparents, and by encouraging activities like music lessons and sports lessons and being involved in art shows and performances.  These things have really helped the girls. 

    I have consistently heard that helping kids focus on future goals and dreams when in a difficult family situation can help, too.  So we encourage that in the kids.  We would anyway, but we take it more seriously.  It is hard to hear SD10 saying that she just wants to move to the state her mom wants to move to, but we still encourage her to dream all her dreams. 

    SD6 seems to be doing well, needs much less from us other than just plain love and support. 

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    « Reply #19 on: August 06, 2010, 08:18:21 PM »

    Taken from the following link: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Trauma_and_children


    For children, as for adults, a distressing or frightening experience can challenge their sense of security and the predictability of their world. Such events can include life-threatening car accidents, bushfires, floods, sudden illness, traumatic death in the family, crime, abuse or violence.

    Children’s responses to these experiences depend on a wide range of factors. Some of these include their age and stage of development, and the impact on their parents or significant others including siblings or carers.

    Usually very young children are unable to understand what has happened. They may be scared, especially if the reactions of their parents or caregivers seem confusing and strange.

    Children will ‘fill in the blanks’

    It’s a natural reaction to want to shield children from harsh realities. However, keeping a child ‘in the dark’ doesn’t protect them from the emotional impact of a distressing or frightening event. It may even make it worse for them as children are keen observers and will realise that something is wrong, even if no one in the family talks to them about it.

    If a child hasn’t been given the facts they need, they will fill in the blanks from previous knowledge or experience or from their imagination. Since children are naturally self-centred, they may assume the tragedy was somehow their fault; for example, a child may think that God sent a bushfire to punish them for disobedience. In some cases, the child’s construction of the events may be far scarier than what actually happened.

    Common reactions in young children

    Young children often react to distressing or frightening events in physical ways. Young children, including infants and toddlers, think and feel according to their developmental level but they haven’t matured the skills to articulate their thoughts and feelings to those around them.

    Every child reacts differently – they may not react the way their parents or carers expect. Sometimes, distress reactions surface weeks or even months after the event. Common reactions include:

    Sleep problems such as not wanting to go to bed at night or difficulties getting to sleep, staying asleep, staying in their own bed and with nightmares

    Changes in toileting and eating habits

    Going back to ‘babyish’ habits

    Changes in behaviour, such as becoming more clingy, demanding or difficult, or having temper tantrums

    Fear at being separated from their parents or carers

    Changes in their relationships with siblings, such as becoming more competitive or aggressive

    Needing to relive the trauma; for example, they may draw pictures of it or act it out.

    Common reactions in older children

    Older children may play or talk about their fears and concerns, but may also express their anxiety in physical ways. All children are different, but common reactions include:

    Sleeping problems, such as nightmares

    Mysterious physical ailments, such as headaches and stomach aches

    Not wanting to go to school

    Behavioural problems at school

    Drop in academic performance

    Becoming more ‘babyish’ and attention seeking

    Changes in the way they relate to parents or carers: for example, becoming clingy and demanding

    Withdrawal – for example, the child may not want to discuss their thoughts or feelings in case it upsets their parents or carers, or they may spend more time alone, perhaps in front of the TV or computer.

    Common reactions in teenagers

    All teenagers are different, but common reactions include:

    Feelings of shock, denial, anger and confusion

    Anxiety, particularly about the future

    Physical problems like sleeping problems, recurring stomach aches or headaches

    Depression

    Withdrawal from family and friends

    ‘Acting out’ behaviours – disobedience, disregard for authority, drug use or misuse, or inappropriate sexual behaviours.

    What parents and carers can do

    Children look to their parents and carers to gain understanding of a situation and find appropriate ways to deal with it. Suggestions include:

    Give your child the facts about what happened and why, using age-appropriate language.

    Assist your child to play or talk about their thoughts and feelings. This also helps you to gauge whether or not they understand what actually happened or whether they have another interpretation.

    Allow your child to express their feelings to the person of their choosing and in whichever way they need to. Demanding that they do what you want will lead to friction and misunderstandings.

    Reassure them that their feelings are normal. Tell them how you’re feeling too.

    You may need to explain adult reactions to stress. For example, a young child may feel bewildered by a crying parent or carer unless they know that adults cry when upset.

    Keep up regular household routines, if possible.

    Make time for pleasurable family activities.

    Remember that your child’s distress reactions are usually short-lived.

    When to seek professional help

    It may help to seek professional advice if:

    The family as a unit is finding it difficult to cope with the impacts and demands of the events and the follow-on

    The child’s reactions, changed patterns and behaviours are intense, do not settle in a week or two or become worse, or if new ones develop

    The child talks about harming themselves or tries to harm themselves

    You are worried about your child or their wellbeing

    You are finding it a struggle to manage your reactions to the situation in your child, your family or yourself.

    Where to get help

    Your doctor

    Counsellor

    Psychologist

    Local community health centre

    The Australian Psychological Society Referral Service Tel. 1800 333 497

    Parentline Tel. 132 289

    Things to remember

    Children’s responses to distressing events depend on a wide range of factors including their age and stage of development, previous experiences, the current situation and the impact of the crisis on their parents and significant others.

    Children will realise that something is wrong, even if no one in the family talks to them about it. If they aren’t given the facts, they will fill in the blanks from their own knowledge, experiences and imaginings.

    Sometimes, distress reactions surface weeks or even months after the event.
    « Last Edit: February 15, 2020, 03:24:54 PM by Harri, Reason: formatting » Logged
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    « Reply #20 on: August 11, 2010, 10:47:19 PM »

    Understanding Child Traumatic Stress Brochure:

    www.nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/edu_materials/Understanding_Child_Traumatic_Stress_Brochure_9-29-05.pdf
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    « Reply #21 on: August 15, 2010, 03:34:20 PM »

    From the book: Hope & Healing: A Caregiver's Guide to Helping Young Children Affected by Trauma

    https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=125807.0

    Excerpt
    WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACUTE AND CHRONIC TRAUMA?

    Acute trauma is a single traumatic event - such as a serious car accident - taht overwhelms a child's ability to cope.  Chronic trauma (also called complex trauma) means exposure to more than one - often many - traumatic events over time.  Children who live in violent neighbourhoods or violent homes (or both) may experience trauma repeatedly.  A child who lives in an environment that exposes him to the threat of physical and sexual abuse is at great risk for chronic traumatization.  Primary caregivers i these environment often cannot protect the child and his interpersonal world is in a constant state of crises.  He has no holding environment.

    Excerpt
    The Impact of Traumatic Events Depends on:

    The Child

    Age

    Developmental stage

    Temperament

    Developmental delays

    History of emotional or behavioural problems

    The Traumatic Event

    Acute trauma

    Chronic trauma

    Intensity

    Child's proximity to traumatic event

    Injury to the primary caregiver

    Loss of the primary caregiver

    Extent of physical injury to child

    The Social Environment

    Availability of the parent or other primary caregiver as a support to the child

    Ability of the parent or other primary caregiver to help the child cope

    Level of family stress and coping ability prior to traumatic event

    Ability of the family to cope with current stressors

    Family routines and stability

    Availability of social supports in the community

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