|Q: My child's early years were spent in a home that was chaotic and unpredictable. Later, he lived in several foster care homes before coming to live with us. Today is our four-year anniversary of being adopted but I find myself still frustrated on a daily basis. After four years, he still continues to be a disruptor in our home and anything I do to try to make life a positive experience for him, he flips it around to be negative and chaotic. Please help!|
|A: Congratulations on your four-year adoption anniversary! One of the first thoughts that came to mind when I read your question was that you can take a child out of the trauma, but getting the trauma out of the child takes much effort. Your child's early history impacted his blueprint of the meaning of family and of life.|
When children grow up in traumatic homes, that kind of environment is the familiar and they come to believe this is "normal." They just assume that this is the way life is for everybody. A deep subconscious imprint is formed and they live out of this blueprint for the rest of their lives, unless it is consciously changed.
For children growing up in the type of environment your son experienced, their definition of what love and family means is skewed and distorted. Listed in the left-hand column are words that describe your son's early blueprint of love and family. Conversely, children who grow up in loving, predictable, and emotionally sensitive homes, develop blueprints for love and family that are much more in line with reality. In the right-hand column below are words that define what these children perceive as love and family.
|Your son is still living out of this early blueprint, despite being in your home for four years. That is why it feels like he is sabotaging and disrupting everything you do to create a loving environment for him. Your family is uncomfortably juxtaposed between the left-hand column and the right-hand column listed in the chart above.|
Some children learn to redefine their blueprints simply through repetition and time. Other children, however, need more intentional and conscious work to finally let go of distorted blueprints. Why? It all depends on the depth of the trauma, the child's perception of the traumatic experiences, and the child's personality type. It isn't a reflection of you being a "good" or "bad" parent. It's just the nature of trauma.
Bringing a negative blueprint up to the child's conscious awareness can be a valuable exercise in helping him change these early definitions. Take a large sheet of white poster board or paper and draw the chart given above. When your son is in a calm state, go through these two sides of the chart with him. Add in more about his early life story and help him see that what he experienced years ago is influencing his life today.
Tell him that your job is to help him learn what the true definition of family is. It also helps to take responsibility for not being there early on to protect him from these traumatic experiences. Although it wasn't your "fault," our children need someone to take responsibility for what happened to them in order for them to move forward in their healing journeys. When you can say, "I'm so sorry I wasn't there to protect you and give you everything you deserved as a baby/toddler. I so wish I was able to have been there for you!" from a heart-centered, authentic place, it helps him to know you really understand him.
Keep this poster up in your house and when he starts to go back into these old patterns and that old blueprint takes over, lovingly remind him of what true family is all about. It is important to not just talk about this old blueprint but to show it visually, as shown in this chart. Most children with trauma need visual communication along with auditory communication to have it make more sense and for it to be retained within their memory systems.
Trauma recovery is a life-long developmental process. Keep connecting with the left-hand column to understand how to bring him into the right-hand column!
|Heather T. Forbes, LCSW|
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2,
Dare to Love, and Help for Billy.