How do you explain to someone who has gone through major trauma that you and your spouse are going on a trip?
Children who have undergone major attachment interruption or trauma assume that the worst is going to happen. Trauma is anything that the brain perceives is a threat to its life. Your caregiver leaving you is perceived as a threat to your life when you are a child and have experienced certain types of trauma. Do not avoid talking about the real fears here. Say, “You are afraid mommy isn’t going to come back. You are afraid you won’t see daddy again.” Here are some things I recommend in these situations:
- Write a social story for your child if he/she is still younger. You can find lots of ideas on how to write social stories on Pinterest. The story should have a basic outline – a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story should include the feelings associated with each section. For example: Before mommy and daddy take trips, Bobby always feels scared. He is worried that mommy and daddy won’t come back. While mommy and daddy are away, Bobby feels scared sometimes, but he also has fun. Sometimes he has fun, because Julie, his babysitter, loves to play soccer with him…. When mommy and daddy come home, Bobby feels very relieved, but he also feels a little upset that they left him alone. It takes Bobby a day or two to feel peaceful and happy again.
Each story can be tailored to each child’s fears and patterns of behavior.
- Leave a daily note (and maybe even a daily gift) for your child to look forward to open. I used to go to the Dollar Tree and buy one small toy for each day that I would be gone. I would then wrap each one and put a number on it. If I was gone three days, they would have three presents and three notes. It was something they looked forward to daily, and it took some of the sting out of me being gone. Try to open the gifts at the same time everyday, but avoid highly emotional times like bedtime.
- You can also create an audio or video-recording of you singing your child’s favorite songs or reading his favorite books. This can be enormously comforting!
– Dr. Melody Aguayo, Springible Contributor
Here are some tips from Dr. Melody about communicating with your child: