Behavior is a greater indication of a child’s emotional state than the words that come out of their mouths. An almost knee-jerk reaction to “how was your day” is often “good”. Similar to our daily interactions with others of “how are you” and the anticipated response of “good.” As adults, we struggle to put the status of our heart into words, and kids have a more difficult time.
As most parents can attest, the movie Frozen has wormed its way into the singing mouths of our children. Watching the movie for the millionth time, it became clear how the two main characters react in opposite ways to their trauma. These two expressions of turmoil identify many warning signs that your child may be dealing with internal struggles.
As Selena wrote in “Trauma 101, “Warfare, tragic accidents, natural disasters, and other “big” events are often described as big “T” trauma. Little “t” trauma, such as grief, neglect, bullying, and many others are less often associated with the longer-term and severe side effects of trauma, but repeated exposure to little “t” trauma can be just as impactful as experiencing big “T” trauma.” Trauma can mean a variety of experiences. There is no need to catalogue all the possible “traumas” your child may be dealing with when these behaviors surface. However, it can allow you to have more intentional conversations with your child.
Spoiler alert! Be aware that I am going to address a major plot twist in the movie! Hans is not a good guy. He addresses Anna’s behavior that is a primary indicator of trauma. Hans tells Anna that she was, “so desperate for love, you were willing to marry me, just like that!” Throughout the movie, Anna engages in attention seeking behaviors and is very easily drawn in by a stranger professing affection.
When children begin acting out in attention seeking manners, we often react negatively. Understandably, their attempts to manipulate our focus can be difficult to respond to in a positive manner. However, their behavior is asking for approval and affection. Trauma targets the core of a person. It converts feelings of confidence and contentment into anxiety and desperation.
This may look like constant attempts to show off in an area they feel confident or in extreme cases, trying to sabotage attention or affection given to someone else. It can be difficult to keep their behavior in perspective. It is not a control tactic as adults might seek to control. It is a means to receive affirmation and love.
Irritation and isolation are often behaviors that drive us to anger. “Why won’t you talk to me?” or
“Why are you being so mean,” can be frequent internal dialogue responses to our children. It seems as though you are the punching bag for their daily explosions. However, this is a call for understanding. The way children treat their parents, can often be an indication of how they feel about themselves. When children struggle with self-hate, it translates to negative treatment of their parents.
Elsa responds to her fear by keeping away, and lashing out at, the one person that is seeking to care for her. In the same way our children react to our attempts to reach them. This does not mean we need to leave them on their own. It can be tempting to leave the slammed door shut or let time pass into morning without reengagement.
For more information visit this website: https://www.samhsa.gov/child-trauma/recognizing-and-treating-child-traumatic-stress
NOT LETTING IT GO
It is important to carefully address these behaviors. Something to consider is following the acronym ASK.
A- Acknowledge that something difficult occurred
S- Sympathize with their emotion and struggle
K- Know that you cannot and do not need to fix it
Utilizing statements rather than questions can be a way to bypass their reactive behavior. Statements can include, “I know you are struggling right now”, “I love you no matter what happened today”, or “I am on your side”. These can address the questions they are asking themselves without their need to verbalize the concerns.
Identifying the emotion for your child can be very healing and helpful. As adults we can struggle to articulate our emotions beyond angry, happy or sad. We have many more years and exposure to more vocabulary than our kids. This targets the cause of the behavior rather than the symptom. They will feel seen and heard. The core desire of any person.
You cannot “fix” a trauma. It is something that has left a scar. The scar will heal, preventative measures can be taken to defend against infection, but nothing will make it magically disappear. Walking with your child through the trauma will be the best way you can help. Keep in mind that some big “T” or even little “t” traumas may need professional help as prevention of infection. That is ok. It does not make you a “bad parent” it means you are doing what is necessary for the health of your child.
Thawing the ice together,
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.