Sunday, September 9, 2012

Parenting a Traumatized Child {Understanding Her Past}

My first baby was well planned.

I ate well.

Took vitamins.

Even got extra sleep.

And then when he was finally born, I spent hours holding him, singing to him, reading to him, just being with him. He attached within days, maybe even hours.

We'd page the doctor if he so much as sneezed. OK we were nervous, over-protective, slightly crazy, first-time parents.

But my daughter, on the other hand, spent her first two years in an orphanage.

In a crib. Alone.

She was born with Tetrology of Fallot and cleft lip and palate. And no one called the doctor when she was sick. Actually she was very near death. And, still, no doctor was paged. 

Her heart wasn't repaired until she was well over two years old.

Her cleft wasn't repaired until she was nearly three.

Simply unheard of for slightly crazed, overprotective parents.

But this is the reality of so many adopted kiddos.

So is it any wonder, that they crave attention. But they don't know how to get it? That they can't attach to their mother and father?

Last week at our Theraplay therapy session, my hubby had an Ah-ha moment. Our therapist said that many adopted kids rely on their cuteness to get attention--to become favorites. They smile and hug anyone. My hubby, remembered looking at files that said certain kids were "nanny favorites" in the orphanage.  And the nannies always loved to give them extra attention.

Our daughter was not one of those.

She was just another very sick, actually dying, kid locked away in an orphanage fighting for her life.

I've known all of this since we first got her referral. But there is a difference between knowing and understanding. Because understanding means that I don't get frustrated and stressed when she has her fifth tantrum of the day, for what seems like no reason.


When she clings to me in fear, from something I don't understand.


When she asks me a hundred times a day if I love her.


If she asks me again if I will leave her. 

Instead of frustration and stress, understanding means I have compassion because I know her brain has always been in flight or fight mode. She has fought for her very survival. And there are times, when she's still not sure if we will always be there, always feed her, always love her.

We know that we will never leave her. And that we will love her forever--no matter how she behaves, or what she does, or even how cute she is or tries to act. 

But we have to teach her.

And that takes time and work.

And we've only just begun.

But I have faith that she will be emotionally healed. And she will truly let herself experience the love of a family. And one day, she will realize her place here with us is permanent.

Come back again. I'd love to hear how you are dealing with the past trauma in your child's life. 


  1. Hi! I found you on Bloggy Moms! I'm also a Christian and an adoptive mom! I'm your newest follower! It looks like you've already linked up with the Christian Adotion link! :) I look forward to getting to know you!


  2. Believe me when I say I understand a traumatized child. I have been living a nightmare for the past several years. I had no idea my children were abused until last Feb. They were adopted at ages 4 and 7 from Russia. They are now 10 and 13 and still do not understand how much we love them. Once we found out about their unbelievable past we were able to get them treatment. The outpatient treatment did not help so now they are both get residential treatment. They both have RAD. My husband and I are Christians and still believe even more that all children should be adopted very early before they are experience trauma. Read everything you can about RAD and love her, hug her, rock her as much as you can.
    I am from the south and found you on Southern Blog Hop. I enjoy reading your post and plan on following you in every way. I would love for you to visit me and follow me at: Blessings, Diane Roark