Healing the scars of childhood trauma

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Grumble
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Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by Grumble » Sun Oct 04, 2020 10:41 pm

There’s nothing too bad in this post. In the scheme of things this was a potential tragedy that was a bit traumatic rather than an actual tragedy.

As the poem says “they f.ck you up, your mum and dad.” It’s really hard to see the world through the eyes of a child or to know how things have affected them.

My daughter (10) came out of bed tonight upset and thinking about death. Some gentle questioning later and she said she’d been thinking about the night Mrs Grumble and I ate mushrooms. About 18 months ago my brother came to visit. Long story short, he had brought some foraged mushrooms which my mum cooked and all the adults ate. All the kids thankfully refused. All the adults ended up in hospital. My in laws came to look after the kids while two ambulances took me and Mrs Grumble away. It was all resolved within the night, and although it was very unpleasant we weren’t actually in mortal danger. It was scary, we didn’t know what was going to happen which was probably the worst thing. However I don’t really think about it any more, it was all over by 4 am or so. I’ve had experiences almost as bad with norovirus, and hangovers that lasted longer.

My kids have all occasionally had “bad thoughts” that stop them getting to sleep in the period since, I didn’t realise that the trauma of this event might be part of that. Seeing your parents get carted off to hospital and not knowing if you’ll see them again must be pretty rough. I’m sure we discussed it the next day, and obviously we were there when they woke up, but I don’t think we’ve discussed it much since, beyond my wife banning mushrooms from our diet. I don’t know if it would be better to talk it out or let it lie? Or how to talk it out.

Obviously with the current pandemic death is very much in the news, and when it affects their lives it can’t be kept from them the way news normally would naturally pass over their heads. I suspect a lot of children have been traumatised this year. I would love to know how to help with my kids (hopefully fairly mild) trauma, and I think society in general could do with more knowledge about it.
I know this is vitriol, no solution, spleen venting, but I feel better having screamed, don’t you?

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mediocrity511
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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by mediocrity511 » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:01 am

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/for-parents/

Young Minds are a pretty good resource and they have coronavirus specific advice. There's also an ebook available on the Oxford owls website called "everyone worries", which is quite nice. Lots of schools are spending the first half term doing some form of " recovery curriculum" focused on emotional wellbeing and settling back into school.

We went through something remarkably similar to you with Miniocrity when her brother was born. I had a homebirth, she met her baby brother and then went to bed. Shortly afterwards, I had a major haemorrhage and got blue lighted to hospital. So she woke up in the night with only her Dad in the house. We ended up with her coming to sleep in our room at some point in the night most nights, although not in our bed thankfully. For us, a really solid bedtime routine with calming music and things helps, and we always talk about it if Miniocrity brings it up. But it's definitely had an impact on her sleep and general wellbeing.

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discovolante
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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by discovolante » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:55 am

Sorry this may not be helpful as it's just an anecdote that I'm just reflecting on, but - my dad has type 1 diabetes, and I remember the first time I saw him having a hypo. I was pretty young but old enough to know something was really wrong, and I was absolutely terrified of the way he was behaving and terrified of him. My mum sent me up to my room while she dealt with it, and I remember him coming into my room with my mum after he had recovered a bit to reassure me, but he still seemed kind of weak and off and I still felt frightened of him, at the time. I still get scared when there are signs that his blood sugar is dropping and more so when he has an actual hypo. But - they are quite scary, so that response is partly normal. I'm thinking about what might have helped me, and I am not sure that my parents ever sat down and rationally explained to me what happened, that things like my dad resisting help when his blood sugar is really low is just part of it, that strange behaviour in itself is something to I suppose 'ignore' and that focusing on resolving the core issue i.e. getting his blood sugar up is the main thing, and so on. Obviously that would need to be qualified as they can't promise that he would definitely be OK, but I wonder if by not having that proper discussion with me together they felt that they were trying to 'protect' me from feeling responsible for him when he got ill, when actually if handled properly it could have helped me feel more in control. It's not that I wasn't told what to do, but as far as I can remember I think it was mostly my mum who just told me what he needed to eat if he got ill, and in separate discussions my dad told me about the technical stuff about insulin, his pancreas etc. I think maybe the entire education should have come from both of them so I could see it as a kind of partnership than a 'danger' to watch out for; I might have felt more in control that way.

Anyway sorry I know that doesn't address the specific issue you've raised, but thought I'd post it anyway.

But I guess part of the difficulty of this kind of stuff is just having to accept that you can't shield your kids from bad stuff entirely, whether or not it would actually be helpful to them if they were entirely protected from being exposed to 'bad stuff', and what negative impacts are just a kind of sad but inevitable part of growing up and what should be avoided. I'm not a parent so I haven't got a clue about that.
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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by Grumble » Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:12 pm

I try not to be too sheltering, but knowing what to say about bad stuff that happens is a skill set I’m not sure I have.
I know this is vitriol, no solution, spleen venting, but I feel better having screamed, don’t you?

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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by bagpuss » Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:02 pm

Grumble wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:12 pm
I try not to be too sheltering, but knowing what to say about bad stuff that happens is a skill set I’m not sure I have.
It's hard.

We've always tried to go with honest and open but as reassuring as possible. But there are times when honest and open makes reassuring nigh on impossible, and I'm never quite sure where to land between reassurance and openness.

Anecdotey stuff follows...

When the bagkitten's great grandfather and then grandmother died within 2 weeks of each other, when she was 6, it was the first time that death had affected her personally, and losing 2 people so quickly was a bit of a shock to us all but especially her. We had quite a lot of talks then about death and what it means and that it happens to everyone. Which led to her being scared about Mr Bagpuss and me dying. We were open with her but we probably did put rather more emphasis on death being mostly something that happened to old people to be entirely compatible with openness and honesty.

She's also been scared of fire for a number of years - no reason, nothing ever happened to any member of family, or friends - it just came out of the blue. But it's been difficult at times as she's been scared to go to sleep in case the house burned down with us all in it. That one took a lot of talking, a lot of rational talk about the biggest fire risks and how we were quite low risk (non smokers, hob is electric*, always unplug laptops and phone chargers at night, never leave anything on standby, etc, etc) and we have smoke alarms that we test regularly and so on. But as her fear was not entirely rational, that only went so far. It's a lot less now than it was (was worst when she was 4-5) and oddly, the "Great Fire of London" topic at school helped a lot. I'm not sure whether it was because all the reasons for the fire being so bad were things that just aren't the case now, so it helped her put things in perspective; or whether it was just talking so much about fire that it became less of a big scary unknown.

I think it was also important that we didn't try to belittle her fears or brush them away as insignificant. We acknowledged that, despite the risk being low, there was always still a risk, and talked to her about what we would do if there was a fire. I think that could make for a very difficult discussion when the topic at hand is the potential death of the child's parents, though, unless a child outright asked the question. Finally, on the nights where the fear was preventing her from sleeping, we found that listening to an audiobook until she fell asleep really helped as it gave her brain something else to focus on. Now that she's a little older, she plays a game that I play too when my brain is whizzing round and not letting me sleep - the alphabet game. Just pick a subject (the bagkitten likes animal or food related ones) and go through the alphabet trying to think of something that begins with each letter of the alphabet. You're not allowed to skip a difficult letter, at least not until you've tried for about 3 nights in a row, as the difficult ones are the ones that really help you get to sleep.


I'm no expert, that's for sure and I absolutely agree that society could do with being a bit better about this stuff, and providing more information to parents for how to be better at it. Thanks for the link, medi, I'll have a look at that.



* Which really backfired on us when we arrived at a holiday cottage to discover that the electric hob in the pictures/description of the place had been replaced with a lovely new gas hob. There was much angst until we pointed out that we were on holiday and I was planning on doing as little cooking as possible. :lol:

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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by Grumble » Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:07 pm

My son for a while was scared of wolves and other such creatures. Telling him there weren’t any wolves likely to be near Stockport didn’t reassure him at all! But they do appear in children’s stories and I’m sure they can become proxies for other fears, such as mushrooms, which may be more likely but parents being poisoned by mushrooms isn’t a usual trope in children’s fiction.
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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by Brightonian » Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:20 pm

When I was maybe 9 or 10 I watched TV drama where people got poisoned having eaten mushrooms they'd picked. I refused to eat mushrooms for years afterwards.

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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by bagpuss » Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:21 pm

Grumble wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:07 pm
My son for a while was scared of wolves and other such creatures. Telling him there weren’t any wolves likely to be near Stockport didn’t reassure him at all! But they do appear in children’s stories and I’m sure they can become proxies for other fears, such as mushrooms, which may be more likely but parents being poisoned by mushrooms isn’t a usual trope in children’s fiction.
The bagkitten woke up with a jump one night, absolutely convinced that she'd heard a wolf howl. Fortunately she was old enough at that point to half realise that it wasn't possible while still being half convinced that it was a wolf. We told her that it was most likely an owl, although that idea was met with much scepticism. Thankfully, the owl then hooted again and she heard it while now fully awake and recognised it for what it was. But if it hadn't been kind enough to do so, I don't think we'd have convinced her for certain that it wasn't a wolf, even though she knew full well that there aren't any in the wild and it was highly unlikely that any had escaped from Whipsnade Zoo and legged it a dozen miles or so across country to get to us.

Kids' fears, in fact anyone's fears, but kids in particular I think, definitely can't be rationalised away easily. I do think that rationality and facts help though, even if it takes some time for the facts to be taken on board enough to help. But the biggest problem with a fear of death is that you can't rationalise it away fully anyway. Death happens, and it happens often enough, even to youngish people, that any level of honesty means you can't tell a child that it won't happen. Wolves are a lot easier, at least in the UK.

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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by Sciolus » Mon Oct 05, 2020 6:09 pm

Grumble wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:07 pm
My son for a while was scared of wolves and other such creatures. Telling him there weren’t any wolves likely to be near Stockport didn’t reassure him at all! But they do appear in children’s stories and I’m sure they can become proxies for other fears, such as mushrooms, which may be more likely but parents being poisoned by mushrooms isn’t a usual trope in children’s fiction.
ObSMBC.

I'm not a parent, but this has always seemed one of the hardest things, getting the balance right between supportiveness and independence. A key part of growing up is realising that grown-ups don't get it right all the time, and in fact we're all just floundering around making it up as we go along most of the time. So I guess you just have to make sure they understand that you, as parents, will do your very best to look after them (including fostering their independence) but that you will sometimes get things wrong, and sometimes bad things will happen that are outside your (or their) control.

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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by sTeamTraen » Mon Oct 05, 2020 6:42 pm

I don't have much advice to offer the OP directly, and I don't want to sound like I'm saying "Just get over it", but as disco suggested (I think), a certain degree of exposure to mildly bad/scary things is part of normal life. While nobody likes to relive their own nasty moments, I think that as adults we mostly come to realise that everyone else is in the same boat, and those who aren't soon will be.

Throughout human history (until only a couple of generations ago even in the West) most children had experienced the death of at least one sibling, and many had experienced the premature death of a parent. Being more or less forced to fight in an actual shooting/stabbing war was the normal experience of a large percentage of young men. I'm not sure that existentialism, as exemplified by Kierkegaard and Nietsche, would get off the ground today, given than going from being fine and alive to extremely dead in the space of a week is relatively rare (although COVID has temporarily caused one or two people to have to face up to that).

(FWIW, I read recently [on the BBC site; can't find the link] that anxiety levels among UK school-age children dropped significantly during lockdown. So while fear of COVID may have hurt some, another set of young people seem to have experienced relief from what might be their daily trauma of going to school. Which might be an interesting finding in itself.)
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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:36 pm

Well, some anecdote that may or may not be helpful.

When I was 5 I saw my dad stretchered out of our home to hospital, and he didn't come back. (Not mushroom related)

Obviously this meant that from a fairly early age I had quite a lot of questions about death for my mum. I suspect as a recent widow that was probably the last thing she wanted to be chatting about with her kids, but she never shut us down. Throughout my childhood we just talked through things as openly as possible, with a tendency on my mum's part to err on the side of being reassuring. From what I remember of being a kid, being allowed - indeed, encouraged - to ask all my difficult questions was very helpful.

The only way those circumstances really affected me growing up was via their impact on my mum, I think. We soon got used to being a single parent family, and having no money, and moving house a lot, and having to spend the school holidays at work with our mum because we were too young to stay home alone and family was far away. It was only tough when those things wore my mum out, when she had barely enough energy to get through her own day and no co-parent to tag in.

So to get back onto the thread topic, I think if you're receptive to talk about these things, it's ok to treat your kids a bit more maturely than you might expect for their age - they're quite adaptable, and it sets them up with the expectation that they can always come to you with worries. The things they're worried about in these cases are quite unusual, so you can realistically aim to allay their concerns without needing to sugarcoat things.

Given everything that's going on at the moment, there's also a risk that friends' parents might be taken ill or worse, which is harder to be reassuring about. I'm not sure how to explain a novel pandemic to kids, when if we're honest even adults aren't quite sure how to keep themselves and their family safe and happy. But I think it's ok to be honest about that uncertainty as well.

And should that happen, I think the best way to support those kids is via supporting the parents - things like sharing lifts, or having them over for a midweek meal. I think the general day-to-day of parenting gets much harder when it's just you doing it, so by looking after parents in tough spots you're helping those children have the best version of their parent they possibly can.
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Re: Healing the scars of childhood trauma

Post by Grumble » Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:26 pm

Thanks boaf. I thought I might get a bigger perspective from someone.

Good comments from youse others too, thanks.
I know this is vitriol, no solution, spleen venting, but I feel better having screamed, don’t you?

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