Last week I attended a presentation by the Parent Information Network or PIN, an awesome support group for parents raising children with mental health concerns. The topic was “Bouncing Back.” Afterwards, I realized that for a RAD parent, it’s more just bouncing. Once your child has suffered from early childhood trauma, neglect, loss and/or abuse; and, you have suffered from their trauma, there is no going back. There is only going forward in a continual pattern of ups and downs, better and worse, good days and bad days.
We learn trauma specific parenting skills like some of those touched on at last night’s presentation: providing structure and consistency, recognizing behaviors and triggers, and seeking professional help. Our children acquire coping skills like using stress toys, deep breathing, and yoga. If we are diligent and lucky, we seek out and find the right therapists and other professionals who understand and support our journey. If we are able to reach out and again lucky enough to find a caring community, we also have the support of family, friends and faith.
Still, our road is not flat, even or direct. Our children’s lives can never simply return to innocence and a time without harm. For many of them, abused or neglected as infants, that time does not even exist. For all of them, loss, pain and healing are part of who they are and will remain part of their ongoing story. As they take up their pen and write each new page, there will always be a prologue and a previous chapter. Some will soar with the words of a poet, their resilient spirit shining. Others may struggle with the grammar of their past every day. All will live a life informed by their experience.