Trauma. Just the word evokes an array of emotions. You have your own feelings and thoughts when you hear this word. Darkness can and often does surround when trauma occurs. As parents we never want our children to experience any sort of trauma, and the idea of this can simply unravel of us.
I am not getting into any specific types of trauma in this post. If you have been following along in this series, you know we have defined types of trauma and how to heal from any trauma in your own upbringing or adult life. I aim to provide a clear path to help you be your best self if your child has experienced any sort of traumatic event.
When we do not have enough oxygen, we cannot see clearly and are likely to only see the darkness. If you have ridden on an airplane, you know that the flight attendant directs parents travelling with small children to first place the oxygen mask on themselves then on the child in the event of an emergency. I never understood this growing up. It seems counterintuitive as parents seem to first think about their children. Bottom line if a parent does not have air, they cannot help their child. So put on your own emotional oxygen mask and breathe so that you can be there physically, spiritually, and emotionally when your child is hurting.
This will likely look like getting some professional help yourself in addition to getting professional help for your child. You may need extra support from family or friends. Taking care of yourself will mean doing the fun and stress reducing things to keep yourself afloat. We need these pleasant activities the most when we feel like doing these the least. So exercise, journaling, spending time with God, listening to music, art, or whatever may soothe you is needed.
When you are able to breathe, you can be present with your child. They may want to talk a lot. They may not want to talk. They may be avoidant or overly clingy. They may avoid expressing emotion or they may be very emotional. They are hurting and you are hurting, but you are doing enough to take care of you so that you can take care of them.
One of the hardest jobs as parents is to regulate our own emotions when our kids’ emotions are dysregulated. Picture yourself as a thermostat. It sets the temperature for the environment. It does not vary like a thermometer that simply matches the temperature of the environment. The more you can regulate like a thermostat, the more available you will be to your child. This does not mean that you cannot show emotion or have a meltdown. You may need to have a good long cry in private to feel better so that you can soothe them. Tend to your emotions individually and then tend to your child’s needs and feelings.
I pray that you are not in a season of trauma and will not be, but if you are or you have a friend that is, do not lose heart. Do not lose hope. If I did not have hope and know evidence based practices to help people heal, I could not do my job. As a counselor, I see so much pain. Please know that pain can be worked on and through. Love your child, be present with them, and know that with your support and the right help they can be okay. The process of healing is a journey and takes work but is so worth the time put in.
As a Christian counselor, I often give clients Bible versus to meditate on. I will leave you with one that I have given to people who have experienced trauma. I hope that you can claim a verse or quote that will provide hope in your life too.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Hoping through the hurting,