Now that your child has told her story of abuse, she has completed the trauma work successfully. You may ask yourself, now what?
The healing doesn’t end after therapy. In fact, you may notice that your child may still have nightmares, may still be wetting herself during the day and at nights, may still get anxious when you walk away from her. She may still struggle with boundaries and may still show signs of sexual reactive behaviors.
You may think that therapy didn’t work or that your child needs to go back to therapy, she is never going to get better. You may feel powerless, afraid, frustrated or angry. All these feelings are normal. You’re not alone.
Healing can occur in the home: Providing your child with a home where they can feel safe is a part of the healing process. You may not know where to start.
Here are 5 things you can do to at home to help with the healing process. Please note that these tools do not replace therapy and I am in no way shape or form, saying you can do this on your own. These 5 tools are to be used as a guide and reminder once your child has completed therapy.
CREATE SAFETY: Healing can occur in your home: Providing your child with a home where they can feel safe is a part of the healing process. Structure, consistency and a routine helps to create a safe environment. It allows your child to know what to expect each day and each night. Set boundaries and respect boundaries; this allows your child to have choices. Let your child know he has a voice and their voice matters.
TEACH SELF-REGULATION: Self -regulation allows your child to manage their emotions and behaviors appropriately. It gives them the ability to calm themselves down when they feel dysregulated. The greatest gift you can give to children is to teach them how to self-regulate. Children who know how to self-regulate will have the ability to deal with their strong feelings and emotions surrounding the bad thing that happened. Some things you can offer to help your child self-regulate or self soothe are: taking a warm bath, holding a weighted or soft blanket, drinking tea, blowing bubbles, taking deep breaths, praying(if faith is a strong part of your family's life), doing exercises, yoga, listening to music, holding ice, mindfulness exercises.
Some children may become dysregulated at the same time each day and night. Paying attention to your child's behavior will help you to be preventative when your child seems dysregulated and offer soothing tools before the behavior is out of control.
BUILD RELATIONSHIP AND TRUST: A trusting relationship is a key component in helping your child heal. When your children feel loved and supported they will be more open to talking to you about their feelings and emotions surrounding the abuse. Reflective listening, giving hugs (for younger children especially snuggling at bedtime). Believe your children when they talk about the abuse. Knowing that the story is believed by a caregiver helps to build trust. Your child will feel supported. As caregivers, we sometimes take this for granted and feel that the children in our care should automatically feel close to us because we love them. This is not the case; children want your energy and attention. It matters more that you are present and in the moment with them.
POSITIVE PRAISE/NURTURED HEART APPROACH: Most people want to feel noticed and seen. This is especially true for children. Taking time out to say "I notice and I see you doing and that tells me that you're (insert your word of greatness). Giving praise is more than just saying good job. Be specific when you praise and point out good qualities in your children. Focus on what's happening in the right direction. There is always a positive happening. There will be times when it doesn't seem that way. In those moments breathe, reset, and look again.
SELF-CARE: Self-care for caregivers caring for traumatize children is crucial. Caring for children requires a lot of energy. Caring for traumatized children will require more. There will be days when you will be emotionally and physically drained. Be aware of your own thoughts and honor your feelings and emotions. Take time every day, to practice self-care routines such as taking a bath, talking to your spouse, journaling, yoga, listening to music, go for a walk or run etc. The opportunities to practice self-care are endless. However, self-care for most people takes intent and planning.
There are so many strategies to use when caring for a child who've experience trauma. Don't give up hope, keep trying. There is hope!
I would love to hear your thoughts and connect with you!