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  • Writer's pictureGina Heumann

How To Survive Social Distancing with a Trauma Kid

March of 2020 has ushered in a strange and historic global pandemic, forcing families to hunker down and stay inside. For many parents, this is a welcome bout of quality time with the family, but if you’re a RAD parent, it can cause fear and anxiety. The idea of social distancing and isolation is terrifying when you’re caring for a trauma kid, as our children are the meanest to the people they’re supposed to be closest to. Not having a chance to separate from them can in fact, put some of us in real danger.

Here are a few tips to help you survive this “shelter-in-place” directive that requires us to be cooped up with an angry RAD kid:

  1. Find The Right Mindset I cannot stress enough the importance of putting yourself in the right frame of mind when it comes to your trauma-affected children, global pandemic or not. Remember that trauma actually slows brain development and forces your child to live in survival mode at all times. They are bathed in adrenaline and ready to fight at the drop of a hat. Our kids are also lacking in higher-level thinking skills that occur in the temporal lobes. These include learning, memory, motivation, and emotional regulation. For me, just knowing that my son did not have access to logical thinking helped me become more empathetic towards him. Also keep in mind that our children are immature. While your child might be chronologically 12, they may only have the maturity of a 7-year-old. This means we may need to change our expectations and not require them to do the same things as other 12-year-olds.

  2. Try To Stick To A Routine Trauma kids benefit from knowing exactly what to expect. Routines and schedules help immensely with calming the uncertainty and chaos that occurs in their young brains. Establish a schedule together, and post it in somewhere you can all see it. When creating a schedule, be sure to include plenty of time for breaks and try to get out in nature as much as possible. Fresh air and sunshine is good for everyone, but studies have shown that it’s especially good for RAD kids to help bring anger levels down.

  3. Remember Their Need For Control When kids suffered trauma, their brains become scattered and full of chaos. For them, establishing a sense of control is comforting, even if they sometimes do so in the worst possible ways. One thing you can do to help with this is to allow them some choices throughout the day. Don’t give too many options, which can overwhelm their brains, but maybe offer two choices for lunch, two options for activities… would they rather start with math or science? By giving them some choices throughout the day, you can give them a little sense of control.

  4. Be Kind To Yourself! I cannot stress this one enough. Nobody can pour from an empty cup, so it’s critically important for us trauma mamas (and dads) to practice self-care. Take breaks from each other when they are needed. Eat healthy foods. Get some exercise. Practice meditation. Watch funny movies or comedies… Many people ask me how I survived the angry years with my RAD kid and my number one answer is that we maintained a sense of humor. Laughter is the best medicine! And if necessary, have yourself a glass of wine. The old saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy”. Fill up your cup so that you can pour for your children.

Take care of yourselves trauma parents. This is a difficult time for everyone, but what we go through on a daily basis makes this an extra challenge. I am sending out positive vibes to you all and praying we all survive this madness.


Gina Heumann is the author of Love Never Quits: Surviving and Thriving After Infertility, Adoption, and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Purchase her best-selling book, GOLD recipient of the prestigious Mom's Choice Award here: Love Never Quits

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