Did you know that our trauma response type can impact the way we parent our children?
Trauma has been a huge topic in mental health for a while now. We are in the age of recognizing and validating each other’s trauma including our own.
As a mental health professional, I believe reflecting on and building an awareness of our own trauma responses cannot only help us become better parents but also help us heal ourselves.
There are four main types of trauma responses fight, flight, freeze, and fawn.
All of us will use one or two of these responses more than the others when faced with trauma and or trauma triggers based on our upbringing, personalities, and other factors.
Below are four examples of correlating parenting behaviors to these trauma responses.
1. Fight Trauma Response
A person whose main trauma response is fight may be prone to snapping and yelling at their children.
2. Flight Trauma Response
A mother whose main trauma response is flight might be prone to withdrawing and isolating when their children’s behaviors and needs become too overwhelming.
3. Freeze Trauma Response
A parenting behavior that correlates with freeze would be disconnecting from our children by disassociating or focusing on something else when we are overwhelmed with their needs.
4. Fawn Trauma Response
And last, a parenting behavior correlating with the fawn trauma response would be giving in to our children’s wants and or breaking our own rules/boundaries with our kids in an effort to please them to avoid tantrums and conflict.
I hope one of these, maybe more than one, stood out to you as being a place you commonly go to when you’re overwhelmed and parenting.
Our trauma response can be triggered in many ways by an outside source or by our children themselves. And it literally can happen daily.
These trauma responses are designed and meant to protect us. But they are often not useful and can lead mothers to feel shame for their behavior. Of course, shame is harmful mentally and emotionally. With the demands placed on mothers, it can be very easy for us to slip into self-shaming. So we need to find ways to appreciate ourselves, develop our own self-love, and heal.
One place we can begin to heal and take control of our experience more as mothers is by recognizing when we are triggered and in a trauma response.
This list is not exclusive. But here are four very common trauma triggers that women can experience in their day-to-day lives.
- Exposure to an environment related to a past trauma.
- Loud noises.
- Exposure to a person related to a past trauma, seeing someone experience feelings related to a past trauma, or those feelings coming up within ourselves.
- And lastly just being worn out from ignoring our own needs for too long (this one is a number one hit for me).
First and foremost, if you can avoid situations, people, and places that are triggering, do it! Don’t make excuses and tell yourself it’s not a big deal. IT IS!
Also, do whatever you can to prioritize your own needs. If you are running on fumes, everything else will be harder, especially for your children.
Also, you can work on catching yourself in the act of any of these parenting behaviors. Try to notice if you’re doing them by default or if something specific happened. This is your research into yourself and your needs. Because trauma responses are signs of dysregulated systems.
So the next thing we need to do after noticing that we are triggered and in a trauma response is we need to regulate ourselves.
Here are four simple ways to regulate yourself.
- Reduce external stimuli. This means get out of the store, turn the tv down, start a “who can be quiet the longest” competition with your kids.
- Take a break. Of course, some mothers might not have this luxury. Other mothers might be able to grab someone and buy themselves an hour or even five minutes would be useful.
- Breathe. Deep breathing exercises have been proven time and time again to help our systems reset into a more grounded regulated state.
- Reach out for help. Contact friends or family that “get you” and that you always feel better after talking to them. Our systems are meant to regulate through each other. And this is another reason it is so important to get your needs met and be regulated because your kids need you to be so that they can learn to regulate their systems too.
Please remember to find the regulation technique that works for you! We are all different and there are many ways to do this. You can google, “polyvagal exercises” and research different strategies to try. This is a super popular topic right now so search away.
If reading this resonates a lot with you and THAT feels overwhelming, please seek out a therapist that you connect with to give you support to begin to start to sort through the topics discussed in this article.
We all deserve to have the support we need, but we all don’t get it, so counseling is a great way to meet that need for ourselves.
And no matter what you’re going through, you are doing great, mom!
Meet our guest author, Abigail Carter.
Abigail is a clinical psychotherapist that believes in the power of a strong therapeutic relationship having the ability to allow persons to heal and regain trust and interconnectedness with their life. She has gone through her own journey with counseling and has a deep sensitivity to the courage it takes to open and explore deep emotions. Engaging in mental health treatment is a mental, emotional, and spiritual journey of the self. She created Haven Counseling to be a safe place to enable persons to have the courage to take that journey. It is her honor and privilege to help guide people as they brave their transformative paths. And of course, she’s an Albuquerque mom herself.
Haven Counseling provides easy access to mental healthcare for individuals and couples in the Albuquerque area. This office has immediate openings for in-person counseling.
Haven Counseling is a judgment-free space in Albuquerque, New Mexico dedicated to providing high-quality mental health care. The therapists at Haven Counseling believe everyone deserves access to a good conversation with a qualified person to explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.