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Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Connecting With Our Children

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Earlier this year, I did an informal survey on a popular social networking site.  I asked several people from around the world to post the question “If you were to teach your children only ONE quality so that they would grow up to be the adult you could be proud of, what quality would it be…”.   The response was tremendous.  Whether their child is a newborn, six, sixteen, or an adult, parents feel an immense responsibility.  Overwhelmingly, the top qualities that parents want to impart on their children, out of hundreds of responses from all over the world, are compassion, confidence, and respect.  A parent puts a lot of pressure on him or herself to ensure their child grows up the “right” way.

How do we instill compassion, confidence and respect, along with hundreds of other qualities?  I have heard parents (who are now grandparents) say about their child-rearing “We just didn’t think about things so much back then”.  Is that true?  Or better?  Or is it better to think about things?  Is it better to pre-teach, pre-plan, discuss, give choices, discuss alternatives, and compromise?  Some would say absolutely.  The anxious child, the one who “doesn’t transition well”, who needs consistency and structure, who does not like surprises might do a lot better and enjoy himself more when parents “think about things”.  Other children might roll their eyes with all the discussion.  It depends on the individual… it depends on YOUR individual child.

As evidenced by the variety of responses, there is no recipe for what we need to teach our children.  But, we as parents are responsible for teaching our children.  Whether it is trustworthiness, citizenry, humility, kindness, responsibility, determination, confidence, integrity, spirituality, self-reliance, generosity, patience, self-respect, or compassion, we are teaching them.  No matter what the method, no matter how many times we question our parenting, we are teaching them.  And they will grow up and teach our grandchildren.

Connecting Post Trauma

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Is the word “trauma” being used more often, or have I become more sensitive to it’s use?   I have come across it countless times over the years, and this word can call to mind different meanings depending on the use.  Physical trauma, psychological, environmental, a “trauma team” or “trauma center”,  used in conversation, describing situations as traumatic, or “I think I suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)”.  Most commonly and especially when discussing through therapy, it is an emotional response.  The American Psychological Association defines it as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster”.  It then goes on to discuss natural reactions to trauma immediately, longer term, and ways to recover or cope.  Different from a one-time significant event, like an accident, rape or a natural disaster, trauma can even represent something ongoing, like sexual abuse, or domestic violence.

Foster children who suffered from abuse and/or neglect, families living in a world where there is violence daily, a teenager recovering from date-rape, an adult facing memories of child abuse…almost all of my clients had found some way to claim the abuse as their fault, and while I can tell them they are wrong is one thing, proving it to them is another, much more powerful avenue.  I attended a conference last month where they used the term “trauma mind”, as opposed to rational or emotion mind, for example.  Trauma mind means decision making, language production, and judgment are impaired.  How validating for a survivor to understand, neurologically, that they did not “allow” this trauma to happen!  Instead of saying “how could I have allowed this, how come I couldn’t just say no”, they are now saying “so that is why I couldn’t say no and now I am not blaming myself”.

What most survivors of trauma are seeking is safety and change.  Most will say they wish they could go back in time and feel the way they did before they experienced trauma, a feeling where they felt they had control, where they were “normal”.  When you have experienced trauma, any kind of trauma, and you find hope and control again in your life, you are doing more than surviving.   You are coping, you are managing your stress, you are hopeful, you are resilient.

What I find the most rewarding is the resiliency amongst survivors.  The way our brain, our nervous system, our memory works to begin to gain control over the trauma and find happiness, find control again.   I love to use the word resilient when talking with clients about past traumas.  I think of Viktor Frankl and his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” when I hear this word, but I also think of my clients, past and present, who have given true meaning to this word.