Raising Children with Trauma in Their Past


Because of my own family story, I love working with families with foster and adoptive children. These families have to be adaptive and attuned to help their children work through difficult memories.  Even after a child has been moved to a nurturing environment, it takes time for the child to feel like he is safe. It is usually not something a child can even verbalize; their body is subconsciously vigilant, and the child may seem more reactive to what a person with no trauma in their past would think necessary.


If you are caring for a child that was in an environment like this, normal behaviors that you might see because of this bodily sense of danger are:


Anger                          Inattention

Aggression                  Sleep Disturbances

Defensiveness             Fidgety

Impulsive                    Anxious

Hostile                        Irritable

Irrational                     Delayed physical and mental development

Poor Focus


The body tries to create a way to handle the overwhelming feelings of danger, so you might also see children do one or more of these things:


Freezing                      emotional numbing

Distraction                  self-soothing behaviors like thumb sucking, rocking, or

Shy                                self-harming.

Sadness                       Withdrawn




If you understand these behaviors are a child doing their very best with their trauma history, it is much easier to have compassion and focus on connection with a child who very much needs to know they are safe with you.


I encourage you to seek out a counselor for you child that has an expertise in attachment and trauma in children. But as a parent, there is so much you can do to help your child heal as well.


The best thing you can do is stay calm and get quiet when you child gets loud. Show empathy and stay as close as they will let you. Focus on regulating your own emotions, take deep breaths and stay calm so that your child will be able to attune to your behaviors and eventually regulate.


After your child has calmed, explain to your child the effects of trauma on their brain and body. This gives them knowledge, knowledge is power and reduces shame. You child is NOT a bad kid, they are doing the best they can with the skills they have. Together you can work on him feeling safe and learning new skills to regulate.

I have much more to say on this topic, if you are an adoptive or foster family, please reach out and schedule a coaching session with me. You are the primary source of healing for your child and I can help you with skills and tools to help you and your child.



Rhoton, R. (2017). Transformative care: A trauma-focused approach to caregiving. Arizona Trauma Institute. Phoenix, AZ.


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