What it Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families Series- Day 12

Consciously Parenting: What it Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families
Book 1 of the Consciously Parenting series

The Effect of Trauma on Attachment

Trauma has a profound impact on a person’s ability to attach, particularly if the trauma occurs early in life and more so if the trauma is a relational trauma–a trauma that occurs with someone who is supposed to love and care for this person.

When a caregiver is abusive or very inconsistent, many times it means she hasn’t become aware of the traumatic experiences in her own past and found ways to integrate those experiences. Without the awareness and vigilance to make the necessary changes, every day she can unknowingly act out her old story in her parenting interactions.

Early secure-attachment relationships protect against trauma, but trauma early in life can threaten a person’s ability to form attachment relationships later. The early patterns in our life can often predict our ability to recover, or not recover, from the inevitable traumas of life. The ability to reach out to others, to open up to someone else, to experience our feelings, and to express our painful experiences can keep us from developing disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with its debilitating flashbacks, night terrors, and startle responses.

Children diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) always have disrupted relationships in their early caregiving experiences.

From the book Consciously Parenting: What it Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families

Birth trauma is a trauma this is often overlooked as something that can be traumatic for both mom and baby. This trauma can happen very early in life and is often missed as a possibility for behaviors that show up later. Many times when I am processing with a family having a challenge with a child and we start talking about the birth, there is acknowledgement that it was difficult, traumatic, or overwhelming. But most families had no idea what to do about it and no information to help them understand that it could show up for the child in any way through difficulties with feeding, sleeping or attachment behaviors, let alone that there is something that can be done to support the child and the family.

Children who had early separation from caregivers, as happens when a child is in foster care or placed for adoption, have all experienced attachment ruptures and some degree of trauma. Babies who were in the NICU or special care nursery, and subjected to treatments that helped them to stay alive (so recognizing that they were necessary), or who were very ill have also experienced trauma. These children need extra support to grieve their losses and the story they are carrying in their bodies.

When things happen to our children, the best thing we can do is to create space for their experience and their feelings about it. Bring curiosity about how their experience might be showing up in their behaviors. Our relationship with them can be protective for them. It matters.

When there are lots of parts to a story or if you as a parent also experienced traumatic events that you are working to integrate, you may need an extra layer of support. Being able to have space for your own story in relationship with others is also protective for you! Consider joining a Community Healing Story Circle to feel what that’s like. It’s a great way to explore your own attachment relationships in a safe container. There’s no cost to attend and you don’t need to share anything to benefit from the experience.

  • Rebecca Thompson Hitt

    Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

Rebecca Thompson Hitt

Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

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