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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Holiday Triggers

Off and on we've experienced kiddo struggling during various holidays.

She's done so well over time that it's not always the same one or the same reaction, but there is generally obvious anxiety, even if it doesn't result in meltdowns.

Sometimes it does result in meltdowns, but whether those occur or not, I try to be sensitive to those holiday triggers that are all too common for trauma kids.

Acting out isn't a behavior problem though, it's a way to communicate the fear and turmoil they're feeling. It's difficult to articulate and many times, the child doesn't even realize the holiday is what triggered the problem.

Fathers Day and Mothers Day have been 2 of the harder holidays for kiddo.

It's logical though.

Imagine being a little kid and while you're still little, your father leaves.

Fast forward a year or two and the abuse starts.....your mother isn't able to keep you safe.  Eventually Social Services steps in and removes you from the only mother and father you've ever known.

Hard enough even if you stop there.

Now picture you moving to a different home. You're told you're safe there.  Abuse starts a year or two later.

Now you've lost the next set of parents you had.

Of course by the time you end up with your forever family, you're just waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Not only do you worry about if they'll always be who they say they will and if you'll always be safe, but you're expected to be all nice and stuff for fathers day and mothers day and give them gifts and love.

No! Why would somebody with that background trust it.  Why wouldn't they think with pain to the past and mothers and fathers day trigger those memories of the past, the mothers and fathers that weren't able to be there for them.

One year for Fathers Day, we made the mistake of going to the beach for the weekend.  Oddly, it wasn't intentional to schedule it for Fathers Day, but just landed that way.

It was horrible.  Total trigger city.

Vacations were difficult early on. Kiddo thought she didn't deserve good things happening to her and vacations were a stressor, worrying if she was behaving well enough to deserve all that fun. Add to that, the knowledge of Fathers Day.....already there is distrust of men in general, now you are suppose to pretend that everything is normal, that you haven't lost so much before this point, that you don't remember the good moments with the past families....you pretend you don't remember the bad moments with the past families....both hurt in their own way.

The next Mothers Day, I had to constantly remind myself not to be upset with her.  She didn't wish me a Happy Mothers Day. She didn't make me a card or anything. It was just another day. I wanted that normal day that a mom usually has, but demanding would be useless and meaningless.  Waiting and not having an expectation would help and be healing for her.

Now, time is creeping up and she's mentioned being away of Mothers Day around the corner.

With the healing that's gone on over the past year or two, it'll be interesting to see how she handles that trigger.

I'm not mentioning the day though.  I am preparing myself and telling myself not to have expectations, even though she "says" she's making something for me.

The first Mothers Day here, the adoption wasn't final. We were sorta in our honeymoon stage, meltdowns, but not fully attached yet at that point. Regardless, I'll treasure that card she made that said I'm the best mom ever.

While she said what she thought she should at that point, I'm accepting the challenge for that to be what I am to her.

We're now attached, but she still has insecurities.  It may be a long time before we have a complete year of holidays and no triggers, but that's okay.

I will understand and accept my childs feelings.

I will also realize there is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday.  ie. Christmas....we use to love to feed the hungry on Christmas. Kiddo is triggered by crowds and noise, we changed that tradition. We used to visit family on Christmas. We stay home now. It's just for us.  We have zero expectations of a "perfect" day.

Guess what? When we decided it was okay not to be perfect, that's exactly what the day is!! Maybe not perfect in other peoples eyes, but perfect for us.


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