Parenting Older Children With Trauma – Part 1

Following is the the first part of a talk I gave about parenting older children with trauma. The transcript is shown after the video.

Hello, everyone. My name is Vanita Thomas. I am an adoptive mom and an adoption advocate. I am here to share a little bit about trauma care and adoption and particularly with parenting older children with trauma.

What do we mean by older children? Older children in the adoption arena or the foster-care arena, are considered children three years old and older because a lot of the basic development in children happens during the first two years of their lives. Trauma usually has a huge impact on a child’s development in the early years. I will be talking about the effect in five areas.

  • The effects of trauma.
  • Grief and loss
  • The importance of attachment.
  • Social and emotional impacts.
  • Developmental delays in Children.

The effects of Trauma

How does trauma happen? You know, often it is because of traumatic events in the child’s life, such as abuse, neglect, unpredictable parents behavior, like because of addictions or mental illness, and then separation from loved ones. These and I am sure there are others too, can cause trauma in a child, especially a little child. Exposure to trauma can affect the child’s thinking, their feeling, their interactions with others, the health of the child, and their development. That is why it’s important to actually identify and treat trauma.

So what should we do? We need to treat trauma as early as possible, and then we need to identify trauma triggers. And what do I mean by that? I just recently heard from a friend who shared about a child who was a baby, who was screaming in the middle of the night. And then they found out later, when the child was taken to the counselor, that the child had been abandoned on a train around that time. And the family actually lived near a train station and the body had held in those trauma factors and was getting triggered every time when the train was going by in the middle of the night. Another one which is very common is birthday triggers. We have noticed it in our family. When we are coming towards birthday times the children were getting triggered, and their emotions and their reactions kind of go up several notches. So identify some of the trauma triggers, and be prepared for them.

Build trust by being available, consistent and predictable. The children had no consistency in their lives, and so they need that. They need you to be there for them. In my case, my son came at six years old. He had faced a lot of trauma as a child, including the loss of his mother. And so for him, no one was available. He had been moved around after that. So I had to give up my job as a business analyst and stay home suddenly as a stay-at-home mom to a broken, hurting six year old. And then soon after that we had another child whom we adopted at 10 months old. So that was not easy, but we needed to be available to them.

Help the child relax. Learning to relax is a hard thing because they have been on edge. You know, they have had to go through so much of suffering, so much unpredictability, so much of horror possibly in some of their lives. And so their adrenaline level is very high. And what happens when you’re in emergency situations? The body stiffens, and so the child needs to learn to relax, and that’s how it helps with reducing the trauma.

Encourage self-esteem. Children who have been through a trauma have no self esteem or worth. So encouraging and building that is important. And for parents, not to lose hope. Even if the child is not reacting to the care you are giving them, it is important for us not to lose hope and to continue working with them. But also watch it for secondary signs of trauma and in the parents or in other children as we care for this hurting child. So we do need to try and help them work through the trauma as early as possible.

Grief and Loss

Next, you know, many of our children come with severely painful situations. That could be from the death of a parent in a horrific way, all the way to separation from a parent. It could be, you know, medical reasons. Whatever it is, they’ve gone through some really difficult times. And so as an adoptive parent, yes, it’s really fun, and we’re excited when the child is coming home. You know, we’re so happy about it, but it’s important for us to know that we need to help our child cope with adoption-related grief and loss. Because behind every beautiful adoption there has been loss, and there has been something that has caused a separation for the child. And it’s wise to address this issue early.

Acknowledging the child’s feelings of grief and loss is important. And then resisting the urge to rush and cheer them up is also important. Because yes, we want to just, you know, hug them and kiss them. Just say it’s all could be better because we’re there. No, they are grieving death. They might be grieving separation. And they are grieving the loss of family members. Remember, by the time they were three years old, they have memories of their previous life. Memories that you may not even know about. We didn’t understand it fully. We thought “love and fresh air”, and everything’s going to be okay – and it’s not. Our child came with a lot of memories, painful memories. And now, after he was able to cope with it and he turned around, and also after hearing other adoptees or other children have been orphaned, especially when they faced the death of a parent – they say – the tape plays in their heads over and over and over again.

So there is a lot of great grief connected to that loss, and just making them smile is not going to take it away. So you grieve with them. And then help them express sadness in the manner that best fits his or her stage of emotional development. Maybe, for a young child it is holding the child and just letting them cry on your shoulder. For an older child, it may be allowing them to express their anger and frustration, even anger against God. That’s okay. Acknowledge it. It is pain. And then walk with them and hold them and help them. Maybe even writing a letter, and saying how much they have been hurt by this loss will be a good thing, and you know, allowing them to release that letter will help them cope with it. And then be prepared for grief disguised as anger. Children sometimes are so angry. You know even as adults sometimes we don’t know how to cope without emotions when we faced loss. How much more these little children! So don’t get angry and try to correct the symptoms of that anger. Instead hold them, connect with them. Because the anger might be coming out of the deep pain of loss.

We didn’t understand. Our journey started 22 years ago and at that time there was no help. And so we would always think we needed to correct the behaviors, and that was not a good thing. Today there are a lot more resources, and we know that we need to walk our children through the grief and anger and pain and the loss that they feel. And then when we communicate about adoption, we know that’s an important part of the adoption journey. Hiding it from a child is not a good thing, because basically we are allowing the child to believe a lie, and God does not want us to lie. Adoption is a beautiful thing. Communicate to that child that you love them. And yes, they have lost. But they are yours. And you are going to walk with them on this journey, loving and caring for them, even walking through the loss with them.

When you talk about your child’s adoption, choose your words carefully. Be careful about how it comes across. We are not doing a charity. We are doing this because we have been adopted into God’s family. It’s such a beautiful thing. And we do want to care for this child who needs a forever family. And so we are stepping into their lives broken as we are, choosing to walk with them and love them. Handle difficult information sensitively, especially about their past. Be careful how much you share with them. Do it age appropriately. And then honor your child’s past. Sometimes it’s hard. It is hard especially when parents have been neglectful. It is hard to say anything good. But it’s important not to say anything bad. And then gently address adoption-related fears and fantasies. You know, our daughter would say that she toggled between our family and her birth mother. And she would always imagine when things were hard here or when we were disciplining her, that it would be so much better, even if the reality is that it was not a better situation. In her mind that was her mother, and that might have been a better deal for her. So it is hard. Gently walk with them on it and help them deal with their fears and their fantasies. Don’t dismiss them.

The Importance of Attachment

We are now going into the importance of attachment, and this is going to be the bulk of my talk, because this is such a critical part of that child’s development. You know, in a normal situation, the attachment would be the essential emotional connection between an infant and a reliable primary caregiver, usually the mother because the mother carried them for nine months, and then she nurtures and she feeds the child, she cares with the child. It is also the father, but it is primarily the mother in most cases, unless the mother’s unable to do it.

Attachment is the basis of trust-building for the child. Healthy attachment occurs when a primary caregiver consistently provides two of the basic thing. One area is the emotional essentials, and the other side is the basic life necessities. Life necessities include safety, smiles, food, shelter, clothing – you know, just the basic essentials of life. Emotional essentials are warm touch you know, like a baby – you coo and you care for the baby. Movement with your child. Eye contact – the more eye contact the mother makes with her child, the more the child feels loved and the child responds. Soft voices – the cooing sounds of a mother and then the baby gurgles back. And then the mother’s relaxed body. How important is that for the child to feel loved and nurtured!

I have two pictures of the attachment cycle in the first year. The first one is a healthy attachment cycle. And as we can see, the infant has a need, infant communicates the need, and then the caregiver takes action to meet that need. The satisfaction in the infant, and the infant feels cared for, right? So the infant’s body is relaxed and then trust and confidence develops, because the child feels wanted and loved.

But what happens to most of the children who were abandoned, who had to be removed from their homes? Because of difficult situations. The infant has a need, infant communicates that need and often the communicates by crying or calling out or whatever they need to do to get the attention of the caregiver. But the caregiver fails to meet the need, and two things develop out of that. One could be fear. Fear that they’re not worth it, fear that no one’s going to take care of them, fear that they’re not safe. The other one is that they can develop apathy Apathy because they feel they’re not worth it. No one’s going to come anyway, and soon that child might stop crying, might stop getting the attention of an adult, and they might just lie there without their needs being met. And this causes anxiety and stress in the whole body, and the brain gets damaged as the child has to deal with this over time. The child starts distrusting adults. Rage happens. There’s no sense of predictability in the child. No, they don’t feel safe or valued. They don’t feel significant because you know what? No one loved them. No one thought they were worth caring for. And that’s extremely sad for a child.

When there is a secure parent child bond – and you can see in the picture – how sweet you know the baby is, and how happy the baby is. But what this does is so important because it helps the child better able to control their negative emotions in stressful situations. And this happens through life! We are putting the foundations when they are very young. They develop better social competence, so their relationships with other children. other adults, is easier. They learn to match their feelings with words in various situations. You know, you can often hear even little children saying, “I don’t like this”, “I don’t want this” or “I don’t like what you’re doing”. And they’re able to express themselves.

And the children who have good attachment or secure attachment are less liable to develop internalizing or externalizing behavior problems. Internalizing is where they just shut down. Externalizing is where they act out. And they are able to handle it both ways and to handle problems in a healthy way. Increased confidence in exploring the world around them – so important for a developing child, because that’s how their mind grows. The brain expands as they explore the world around them. They’re learning new things, and they’re gaining confidence. Of course all this with the watchful caring of the parent. They learn through their parents’ caring behaviors. They learn to have a sense of worth that they’re important. They learn to empathize with others. You know when they are hurt, when they need the parents love – the parent comes, holds them and soothes them. They are learning to empathize. When that doesn’t happen if the child is in a home or in an orphanage and no one cares, the child loses that ability to empathize, and they can become sociopaths. So it is so important. And then they learn to cooperate with others. Very important right through life.

What are the reasons for disrupted attachment? Often it is because the early years were spent on orphanages or large group homes where the caregiver-child ratio is very large, and the caregiver may not have the ability even if they have the heart, or may not have the heart – they might be doing it as a job, not because they do it as a ministry or a real desire to care for children. So children get neglected. There are stories coming out of Eastern Europe, where many of those children were just placed in. orphanages and they were just placed in huge numbers in cribs. Nobody cared for them when they cried. No one came to change their diaper or feed them. They were neglected in huge ways, and after a while you know, they just lost all emotion and feeling because there was no attachment built up. No one cared. They didn’t feel they were worth it. And then later, when they were adopted, the attachment of such a severe problem and the families who adopted them couldn’t handle them. And they ended up having to be sent off to group homes or ended up on the streets. Such a sad thing that this early attachment and care that should be given to a child is lost. So first they’ve lost it from their first families, and then they could lose it in the orphanages or group homes that they are in.

Another reason for disrupted attachment is when there are multiple moves from caregiver to caregiver. That can also happen in those orphanages or group homes. Those might be the best options under the circumstances, but still it is hard when they have to go from caregiver to caregiver, and they don’t have stability in their life. It also can happen when they have invasive or painful medical procedures, or even long term hospitalization, especially at critical development times. Both these can cause children to develop disrupted attachment. Also sudden or traumatic separation from their mothers. That could cause it. Neglect of course, abuse, prenatal alcohol or drug exposure, and then neurological problems in the parents can cause it or even in the child can cause it. And children who don’t develop a secure attachment base will not have healthy development. In fact very often, even after adoption, they might be very afraid to be separated from the parent, and they made also show severe developmental delays. So it’s good to look out for these things.

Reactive Associative Disorder (RAD)

More serious forms off attachments are called Reactive Associative Disorder, or RADa condition in which an infant or a young child does not form a secure, healthy emotional bond with his or her primary caregivers. It could happen because the child didn’t have that foundation, they may have been moved from caregiver to caregiver, or they didn’t know who to trust. And now they’ve come to the adopted parents home or the foster parents home, and they don’t know how to attach to an adult. In fact, I would say that these children are so afraid to attach because they are afraid to lose again. Lose their parent who they loved, or lose the caregiver not carrying back for them. And so they do everything to push the mother particularly away. It could be both parents, but particularly the mother, and that’s why they act up so much in the home. And others may not see this, but this happens very often within the family setting.

So Reactive Attachment Disorder is something that is serious. What are the symptoms? Many of the symptoms are failure to show expected emotions of conscience such as remorse, guilt or regret. They could do something really wrong, and when they’re confronted by the parent there will be no emotion, nothing, no response. They might just stare into space. And when asked to say sorry, you know, they may have no regrets about it. So it’s very, very hard to get an explanation of why they did something, or to get them to say sorry. And most likely, they’re going to do it again. Avoiding eye contact and physical touch. I remember with our son he had a high symptoms of RAD, and though he was never formally diagnosed because in those days we didn’t have counselors who could really diagnose this. But he would show many of these behaviors and really, we almost thought we were going mad, because of the outside it was a different story. And so he would not look us in the eye and, you know, physical touch – he would not allow us to give him hugs – he would push us away. and he would stiffen when we went to give him a hug. And then expressing anger. You know, there would be a lot of anger, tantrums. When I say these symptoms, it doesn’t mean every child has all these symptoms. But if you see several of these symptoms, you could assume that a child is headed in this direction. They might be irritable, unhappy or sad, they may be disobedient and arguing – all this beyond the norm. They may be displaying inappropriate affection towards strangers. You know, that’s a hard one. At the same time, they may show lack of infection and even fear of the primary caregiver, who is either the mother or both parents. And that’s so hard to take, because the other one caring for them, loving them, being with them, handling them in all situations, and yet they go out there and they will show so much of love and affection for strangers. But you know why? That’s because they don’t have any investment in that stranger. They can show love. What that shows is they have that love in their hearts. But they do know that with the primary caregiver or the parents who have taken them in, if they love too much and they lost, the pain would be unbearable for them. And so they push and they push and they push away.  Excessive lying. Lying over stupid things! I remember, you know, our son taking oranges. We had lots of oranges and he was hiding them in his bed and we asked him – and he said “No, I didn’t take it”. It doesn’t make sense, but that was part of their survival before And so they continue with that in bigger ways. Triangulation of parents. Often they would play the parents against each other. Mom is at home with the child, and so they would, you know, when the dad comes home – Mom is so frustrated she would have been affected by the child through the day. And then the child shows a lot of affection to the dad, and the dad thinks, “What a sweet, sweet child!”. but really – mom is there complaining about the child. And there is triangulation, so that can be a huge problem. Manipulated behaviors like acting angelic with strangers while showing hardness towards adoptive parents, especially towards the mother. And then raging can happen sometimes even for hours.

There are treatments available. Psychotherapy and counseling is possible, family therapy. And then there might be social skills intervention, special education and parenting skills classes, to help parents cope. I want to encourage you parents, seek out help. But our ultimate help is the Lord, and he is the one who gives us the wisdom and even directs us to the right therapy or the right help.

Word of caution in this. As you go seeking counseling and therapy, going to counselors or therapists or even your school staff – they need to be aware of a Reactive Associate Disorder as well as attachment problems, even in smaller ways. Because if not, they could do more damage to your child because your child is very good at creating a narrative, making themselves out to be the victim, and making the parent out to be the bad guy. And a person who is trained in this will be able to see behind it, and will really be able to go to the heart of issue and help the child. But others will believe the child will actually cause greater disruption in the attachment. So it’s very important.

What are we treating here? We are treating delays and developmental milestones, delays and physical growth which can be linked to eating difficulties. You know, our son would never eat. Actually, even our daughter didn’t when she first came. It was so hard to coax them to eat. And we found out after years and years and years, almost 11 years, our son would take food and go hide it in school, he would go and throw it into the trash. So eating difficulties is a huge problem. There are emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, and anger management issues. As they get older, it could be eating disorders such as starving themselves or eating too much. Both have happened in many of the children with this problem. Drug and alcohol abuse and dependency as they get older, trouble in school, learning and behavioral problems can happen a lot, especially in the school environment. And learning difficulties can happen you know, because they say with every disruption, the child goes back about 6 to 7 years. And then problem in relationships. It could be with their peers in school, and and you know, as they are getting it is with other adults, in workplaces, and potentially later even with life partners. Physical, emotional, and social neglect and abuse put children with RAD at higher risk for complications in life. And that’s why it’s important for us to identify it, and for them to get it treated.

And for those of us who couldn’t do it when they were younger, you know, let’s not despair. God is still on His throne and he can help our children, even as adults, get the help themselves and to get hope and healing. And He walks with them through it all.

How can we provide this? You know, if you look at this, picture it, it’s kind of strange – the boy is pretty big. But, you know, look at the way they have cocooned. Our children who have come to us at older ages, may not have got that cocooning and love as babies or as young children. So it might even be important for mother and child, to cocoon, – even father and child, you know – just like they would a baby.

And it is also important that when the child first comes home, not to expose them to too many people. You know, we didn’t even realize this, and we dedicated our children within a short time after they came home, and exposed them to a lot of people. We were doing it with the best of interests. And yet now we know research is showing that it’s good for just the parents to be with the child for a period of time, maybe sometimes even for the first few months, and then to slowly start exposing them and to expand their circles little by little. Yes, it is a costly journey for the parents. Yes, we do have to cut out a lot of our social life in order to keep our children safe, but it’s worth it.

Create predictable routines and schedules with the child, you know, again in this yes, it’s important to have that, but at the same time, don’t beat yourself up, especially if your child is raging, or there are other issues you need to deal with with your children, and it may not be possible to be that predictable, but do the best you can. And when you cannot do it one day, tomorrow’s a new day. God gives new grace, so don’t beat yourself up about it.

Commit to daily one-on-one parent-time with the child. Very important. Look them in the eyes, smile at them, spend the time with them, do fun things with them. Find creative ways to play. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So find creative ways, you know, to play with them and offer a lot of encouragement and praise as you spend time with them. And then we can also find developmentally appropriate ways for physical contact as they grow. Continue giving them hugs, and just, you know, even just giving them a shoulder rub  or just you know, holding their hand as they’re doing things. Sit beside them as they are studying. A lot of these things make a difference and that’s why I encourage, especially the mothers. If there is any way that you can give up your job and stay home with your child, it is worth it. Your career can come later in life, or God might have a different plan for you. But being with your child who has already lost so much is so worth it because you’re building attachment and care.

Engage your child in planning future events to create security. Have them involved if you’re planning a vacation, Ask them for their opinion. Tell them about it from the beginning, as you are planning. That helps them see that they are going to be there long term. Otherwise once again in their minds, it might be that they are here for a while and then they are going to be sent away. So engage them.

Speak positively about your child’s past. It is hard. We see them engaging in behaviors that are not okay. It’s easy to blame their caste and the parents. Or just to assume that because of what where they’ve come from, that they’re doing this and be angry about that, or even tell them you know, not to do these things because they would be, er, imitating, and they’ll end up in the same situation. Instead, let’s speak positively and give them encouragement, because the more we talk about the good in the past, the more we can help them build and grow and develop in this life with us.

Make your child feel valued at every opportunity. Help them feel like they’re worth caring for. And I’m telling you, this is a hard thing. Doing it with any child is hard because it is such a commitment for life. And there are times, especially as they get into, the preteen and teen years where you may feel, “Oh, is it even worth it”? How much harder is it with adopted children, especially those adopted it older years with trauma! It is way harder. But ask God for help. He values us however we are. We can ask Him to help us do the same for our children. And as we said, be playful and laugh together a lot. Find funny cartoons and things to just laugh with them. Kids are very good to bring memes and little videos – a TIck-Tock video – and stuff that they can keep you laughing. Laugh with them. Don’t get so bogged down by the burdens of life that you cannot laugh. And then nurture, nurture, nurture. Nurture them as much as possible. Spoiling them is a good thing, and giving them affection and care can do wonders for a child and build attachment.

We move on to the question: How do we then interact with them based on their needs? Do we go based on the chronological age, or do we look at the development age? And as I said, you know, even separation and a move from one place can actually even set them back by about 6 to 7 years. So your child may come with deficits, especially if they’ve come from an institution, or an abusive or neglectful family situation. It’s hard. It’s really hard for these children, and they may struggle to communicate or express their feelings when they come to you. They may be developmentally behind. They may not be able to do things at that age, especially if you already have older kids, bio kids, who have hit their developmental milestones – you know the tendency is to compare. Or if you’re looking at friends, who have kids around that age and you see your child developmentally behind. It’s hard for a parent to take. But that might be the reality your child might be language challenged, and the child may only be able to socialize with children younger, not even children who are their peers, because children can be cruel – especially if they are older children. It might be hard for them to socialize and get beaten up with words or actions by other children. So how can we handle this first thing we have been told over and over again, and I would like to reiterate it – is for us as parents to throw out all expectations. Throw them out of the window. Be guided by the child’s level rather than by social pressure. And what I mean by that is, you know, we may have our own expectations based on what society has expects of our children, our teachers expect, our own family members or parents might expect of their grandchildren, because other grandchildren might have reached certain milestones and things, and they might be looking down on our child. Or other kids are doing so well – our peers, our friends’ children, might be doing so well, and we just feel like we are such failures with our children. No! Throw those expectations out, and instead be guided by the abilities that your child has. They have lost so much. Know that, and then work with them on that. So whatever the task is – and that could be a task as simple as you know, tying the child’s shoelace, dressing themselves up, or eating, to school work. Teach them at their pace. It might take a lot longer for your adopted child, especially your older adopted child to understand. What your biological child might be able to do easily, you’re the adopted child may not be able to do. Go slow, start at a lower level, work your way up. The task might look childish, but it will help fill development gaps in a big way if you’re feeling those holes now. The child may need to be taught like a younger child, so don’t worry about it. It’s not a bad thing, considering what the child has overcome and that they are in your home. Create smaller, more manageable tasks to provide a sense of accomplishment for the child, and give them the praise when they accomplish that. That gives them confidence that they can do smaller things. When they have to do harder things it only deflates them and lowers their self confidence. And so giving them smaller tasks might be a good thing to help them build that confidence.

Social and Emotional Impacts

Moving on, we look at the social and emotional impacts. We know that for elementary school children, they form a very strong sense of identity, and most of that comes from their peer relationships and from relationships with their parents and caregivers. For adopted children, imagine developing an identity is so complicated. You know, they have to merge two separate families and histories – memories and things that they’ve done. And they have to decide how they fit in and then often the are in a new school system, new place, new people that they interact with, new church. Everything is so difficult for them. So they are kind of lost in their identity. And then children were broken pasts may have difficulty understanding, controlling themselves, and expressing their emotions. So it makes that identity factor even harder.

You know, the middle childhood years – the preteen and teen years are very hard because their hormones are raging and they’re trying to figure life out. Many have issues of self-worth and self-esteem, and even feeling different. How much more for our children, who had trauma and who were adopted at older ages? So these children who have gone through this may have difficulty with social relationships outside of the family. These struggles can interfere with their concentration, and can distract children from their school world, and they may appear to be a lot less capable that they truly are. I know we thought that of our kids, especially for our son who came – he was our first child. He was not able to do very basic tasks. I remember even a school teacher at third grade level telling him, “Your sister who is six years younger, will soon overtake you because you can’t even do the basic things”. And that’s sad because a lot of this comes because of their trauma. And so he looked a lot less capable. And yet today at 28, I’ll tell you, if you talk to him and you see what he’s accomplished – same with our daughter. You know some of the things she’s accomplished. I’m in awe, because our children are such amazing overcomers. and I look at both Sandeep and Sneha and what they have had to overcome, and what they’ve accomplished today is amazing. And yet we struggled so much in that time because, we didn’t see them accomplishing at their level.

What can we do to help them? Teach them to express and handle their feelings in a healthy way. They can’t just socially be inappropriate. They can’t just say things, do things, misbehave, you know, connect with people the wrong way. It’s going to only hurt them. It’s very important for them to be able to learn to express and handle their feelings in healthy ways. And if counseling is needed for that, get that or have them as they get older, get counseling themselves. Be a positive example to them. You know, we as parents ourselves are not good. Sometimes we’re so stressed that we react. We get angry at our spouses, we get angry at our children. Instead it will be good for us to remember that we are role models to them, and actually we’re really helping them overcome their trauma as we are calm in our reactions. So maybe even saying the words, “I feel so angry right now. I think I’ll take a walk to cool down”.Or, “I need to take some deep breaths and I need to pray and ask God to help”. Help them understand that you also have those feelings, but you are dealing with them the right way. Then teach them to interact with others – with other kids, with other adults. We can role-play with them. Teach them how to deal with different situations. Coach them to develop empathy. Empathy is a very important thing. Because they were not given empathy, they may not be able to give it. Or, a lot of their trauma and pain might be affecting them so badly that they just may not be able to empathize with others. And so if we don’t deal with this, you know, in extreme cases they could become sociopaths and narcissists. Narcissists have no empathy, and that’s an important part – they only think of themselves, and they don’t care for the needs of those around them, and everything becomes about them. So it’s important to help them develop empathy from that young age, and part of it is having conversations like, “I wonder how Sammy felt when no one chose him for the team”. Help them see that other kids are also struggling, and that will help them not feel so different and help them feel one with the other children or other adults. You know, if someone has died in the family, help them see maybe other family members and say, “You know, I wonder how they’re feeling” or, “It is so sad that that person has lost his loved one”, and that will help your child identify and relate. So these might help them in social situations as they go out into.

Developmental Delays in Children

Then we move into developmental delays. A significant persistent lag in one or more skill-areas is a developmental delay. These delays can be due to genetic factors such as Downs Syndrome, could be due to environmental factors such as exposure to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, it could be with trauma, neglect, and then insecure attachment. It can also be due to neurological factors like Autism, and we know when we see autism it is a spectrum. And there are kids who can handle everything, and then there are kids who cannot handle anything. These factors can definitely play into developmental delays. And there could be many more, I am just naming a few.

So what do we do when we see that? We need a professional assessment for our child. So we need to go to our doctors. A pediatrician should be able to help, and if we need to go to other specialists they should be able to direct us. Search and find good pediatricians in your area who can help you and help assess your child. Talk to your school, your principal, your teachers – there should be a school counselor. They should be able to help, and schools often do some kind of testing to see where the child should be placed, or what kind of extra help they may need. Significant lags in many developmental areas are possible. There could be learning difficulties, loss of previous skills – they might have learned something and then they might lose it, so that might be a factor. And then extreme behavior signs of sensory difficulties. Sometimes bright lights and your child might just take of , or sounds – and you might hear them saying, “No, I can’t handle it”. And they might act up because of that.

So touch, motion, a lot of these things are sensory difficulties, which can be dealt with, there are therapies for it. And the need for constant stimulation or touch is also part of it. And then assessments reveal development delays. What can we do? Yes, we need to get the help, but most critically, we need to continue building that strong foundation of attachment with the child. Don’t focus on those delays. Don’t focus on behaviors. Focus on attachment because we can lose the child if we don’t attach. And then join a support group for your child’s specific disability. That might help you and give you not only the encouragement and support, but also it may give you ideas on what to do with your child.

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