Many children and adolescents in foster care carry with them toxic levels of stress after living through trauma. They’re on edge, in a state of dysregulation, which drives their behaviours and makes daily life a challenge for them.
1. Create a safe environment
First and foremost, traumatized children need to feel that they are physically and emotionally safe. Ensure that your home feels as safe as possible and create a safe space just for your child within the home. Reach out to the school or any child care providers and work with them to provide a strong sense of safety in those settings as well.
Make sure your child has structure each day and knows the pattern. Try to have consistent times for meals, school, homework, quiet time, playtime, dinner and chores. When the day includes new or different activities, tell your child beforehand and explain why this day’s pattern is different.
2. Help your child regulate their nervous systems
Children who have experience trauma often find it particularly challenging to manage their emotions, and need more help to develop emotional regulation skills. You can help your child learn to handle those strong reactions and find ways to express their emotions that are more effective (and less disruptive) than having a meltdown.
Don’t avoid situations that are difficult for your child to handle. Instead coach them through it and consistently provide a supportive framework. Eventually, they should be able to handle regulating themselves but be patient, every child will learn self regulation at their own pace an in their own way.
3. Build an authentic, connected relationship with your child
Transparency is essential in any authentic relationship. You must be honest and direct with feelings. Actively listening demonstrates to your child that they are important to you. This is key, while speaking truth in a respectful manner. Be genuine and vulnerable. In other words, make sure that what you are feeling inside is consistent with how you act on the outside.
These are only three of the important factors for supporting a traumatized child. Knowledge is power: the more informed you are and the more you will understand your child and be able to provide them with the support, nurturing, and guidance they need. Take advantage of resources in your community.
At Satori Foster Homes we provide ongoing training to all foster families. We strongly believe that being trauma-informed is essential to both children in care and the families caring for them. For more resources follow Satori Foster Homes on social media, @satorifoster.