5 Things We’re Doing To Help Our Kids Process Trauma
Hey. It’s been a month and a day since Eira’s accident; it’s been probably the weirdest time of our lives and at the moment we’re just kind of doing life here in Bali before heading back to England.
We knew after the accident we would have to help the kids process what happened to Eira, but weren’t really prepared for earthquakes to hit Bali the day she got out of hospital. It kind of messed things up even more, a lot. Being scared for a short time is unpleasant; being terrified for any amount of time is awful and thinking a family member is going to die and then having your family’s and your own safety compromised for weeks is a real pain in the ass, frankly, so we’re not surprised the kids are out of sorts. As parents we have been trying to keep things going as smoothly as possible and gather our own thoughts but our kids have had other ideas and we’ve been in a washing machine filled with hot water and broken glass of 1am bedtimes, frequent nightmares, four-nightly wakings, phantom earthquakes, random meltdowns and all that stuff.
The particular challenge we have had is not making their situation worse by responding in the way we feel. This is challenging at any point in parenting, but more so when you’re already down to scraping the barrel for reserves of patience. There have been a few things that we’ve tried to do to help the girls over the last few weeks, and will continue to do so. I’m no expert in processing trauma but I do think these are the things that are helping the girls so I thought I’d share them here.
As a family we’re fans of co sleeping, we’ve done it with all three kids in various degrees and co slept with Elfie from birth until… I can’t remember. However old enough she was to be too big and wriggly for the bed. Kids naturally get scared at night and even more so when they’re already worried about something. We’ve found that co sleeping has meant that they don’t feel they have a time when our support isn’t there; they know they’re more safe physically and we’re there if they wake up and as they’re going through their thoughts before they fall asleep they have someone listening. I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been enjoyable, one of the kids has been staying up until ridiculous o’clock and it’s very hard to stay polite and calm at 1am when you’re being asked to play Guess Who or dealing with a meltdown. We have just about reached our limits with it so are rearranging- we have to make sure we can all function in the day so I was a bit firmer last night about a reasonable sleep time, and it worked great, just slowly nudging everyone back into a more normal routine.
Small World Play
This isn’t something we do as adults (obviously) but we’ve noticed that the kids are able to act out scenarios and process events during their small-world play. Schleich animal figures and Lego people are experiencing earthquakes, and we’re able to watch and see what their thoughts and attitudes are by seeing what they do with their toys. We can also ask them questions to see where they’re at, and nudge them towards positive outcomes in the scenarios to try and encourage a positive outlook.
A lot of the last month has been spent either in bed or on a sofa just holding the kids. I would guess that because the scary stuff recently has been hugely physical (an injury and earthquakes), the kids are probably feeling physically unsafe and so hugs are helping. It’s also a way of clearly giving them full attention and letting them know that their mental wellbeing is prioritised, because you can’t really do much when you’re hugging. We try to give them physical contact wherever possible- if we’re reading or watching TV we’ll have them on our laps, give them massages, breastfeeding for Elfie, etc.
Eira has been greatly restricted in what she has been able to do for the last few weeks and simple, quiet art has been a godsend. She often goes quiet and doesn’t want to talk, and has instead brought me pictures of sad faces when she wants to communicate that she needs more attention. Esmae loves art and it has been good as always for her to be able to sit and create and take her mind off things. I’ve actually found it good to just sit with them and colour too, it’s a mindless activity and a distraction from thinking. As Eira couldn’t have screens or play much in hospital or when she came out, simple paper-based activities were good to have on hand.
Talking (and not talking)
We haven’t brought up the accident much unless asked about it, because it’s not something we want to think about and we don’t want the kids to have more reason to think about it. Constantly asking how they are or asking Eira how her head feels wouldn’t be helpful to them. That said, we need to be responsive when they do talk about it or about the way things have changed, or how they feel about it. We’ve also talked a bit about what amazing things we’ve done in the last year and how good it will be to go back to England, to try and help them remember the good bits of our trip and also give them something to look forward to.
If you’ve had similar experiences and found anything helpful, please do comment down below. Thank you.