Parents' & Carers' Wellbeing
Caring for children can have highs and low for any parent, but caring for traumatised children can be particularly emotionally draining and bring its own added challenges for parents and carers. Trauma and neglect have a profound impact on the development of a child's brain, which can manifest into feelings of anxiety, dysregulated behaviour and difficulties developing attachments to their caregivers. This can be exhausting for parents and carers, who may experience added stress, feelings of rejection, or secondary trauma from the children they're caring for, making it difficult to experience the joys of parenting.
Children who have experienced trauma are likely to project their bad feelings onto their caregivers through language or behaviour. Caring for traumatised children requires a level of empathetic parenting to allow carers to understand a child's traumatic history and to help them work through these feelings of shame and recover. Unfortunately, this kind of empathy can make a carer vulnerable to experiencing their child's trauma as their own and it may even trigger memories of trauma from their own pasts. As caring for children is essentially a 24/7 "job", parents and carers may not have sufficient time to recover from this pain and process their own feelings.
The result of this is that parents and cares may go into "survival mode" and may become unable to care empathetically for the child, possibly perceiving them as devious and unable to notice their vulnerability. This is known as blocked care.
Breaking The Cycle
When caring for a child, it is important to remember to take some time out to care for yourself. Taking time to relax, have fun and reconnect with yourself and others will give you the chance to express your emotions in a safe way and to process your feelings and reactions to reduce the feelings of shame and rejection. It's important for adoptive parents and carers to have a support network of their own. See our page on Your Support Network for resources to share with family, friends, schools and churches.
Tips on reducing stress include:
- Reconnect and socialise with friends and family.
- Join a support group with other adopters and foster carers from providers such as the National Association of Therapeutic Parents
- Regular exercise to help burn up stress hormones
- Take some time to be reflective with yoga or meditation
- Consider coming to one of our courses for adopters and foster carers to meet others and feel understood and supported.