By Beth Tyson, MA - Childhood Trauma Consultant and Psychotherapist
Happy-ish holidays and welcome to the December 2022 issue of the Childhood Trauma Newsletter. The holiday season can be a cocktail of every emotion with more highs and lows than the stock market. So to try and make this season a little less topsy-turvy, I have a few trauma tips I would like to share with you.
Holiday Trauma Tips -
It's ok to break traditions! Breaking or adjusting traditions is acceptable if they make your children uncomfortable or don't feel right in your heart. If there's been a death in the family or other significant change, it's ok to keep some traditions and let others go this year. This can be hard to do without feeling guilty, but when you do what feels right inside, everyone benefits from receiving the highest version of your family. It's truly a gift to others to live in alignment with who you are and what you need. When you are struggling to handle a tough situation this season, ask yourself, "what would the most confident, loving, and self-respectful version of me do?" The answer to this question will give your clarity about your decision.
We can't expect children to be perfectly behaved at this time of year. Children who are sensitive or have a history of trauma can easily become activated, and their behavior can be challenging, to say the least. This isn't because they are "troubled kids," "manipulating," or "defiant." Their behavior is an essential clue to how they are feeling inside.
Their nervous system might be overwhelmed by:
Sensory input - lights, music, parties, candy, noise
Trauma memories that occurred this time of year
Changes in routine
Loss of a relationship
Uncertainty and grief about biological parents
Fear about gatherings/meeting new people
Santa "breaking into" the house (my kid)
Unfamiliar traditions in their foster family
And many more…
This might sound a little "woo woo," but children also pick up the state of our nervous system. Those closest to us begin to vibrate at a similar pitch, and if we are stressed, their nervous system will match ours. If you are over-scheduled, time-poor, and feeling stretched too thin, it could be rubbing off on the children you care for. This does not mean it's your fault. It means we shouldn't engage in character attacks on ourselves or our children for their behavior. We all are under a lot of pressure, and staying regulated can be challenging when the holiday season also activates caregiver grief and trauma. Offer children some leeway to express their emotions through art, storytelling, physical activity, and even crying more than usual. Providing an outlet for their feelings can turn a hopeless holiday into a hopeful one.
Free Resource -
The Connections Matter Academy is an animated video series to teach teens and young adults how to cope with childhood trauma. In episode six, we provide hope to children with a history of trauma by teaching them about "neuroplasticity" - our brain's ability to change and adapt through experience. Watch our latest video HERE.
Favorite Trauma Books of 2022 -
My gift to you this year is a round-up of my favorite parenting and trauma-informed books of 2022! These books are not mentioned in any particular order, and I do not receive any compensation for suggesting them. Don't miss the book I'm reading in 2023 summarized at the bottom of the round-up. The title will definitely catch your attention!
Podcast Suggestion -
Therapy Chat with Laura Regan, LCSW-C
Laura Reagan, LCSW-C, Psychotherapist, Burnout Prevention Consultant, and Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator, interviews guests to discuss holistic and alternative approaches in psychotherapy, counseling, coaching, and healing sessions. Be a fly on the wall as therapists discuss the practice of psychotherapy and how they implement self-care into their own lives to prevent therapist burnout. Conversations about mindfulness, self-compassion, The Daring Way™, EMDR, art therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, other somatic methods, trauma, parenting, and attachment will get you thinking deeply about therapy and the universal experience of being human, with all the joy and pain that entails.
Trauma Champion of the Month -
Executive Director - California Coalition for Youth
"All of my life experiences lead me to this opportunity. To utilize my education, talents, passion, and lived experience to serve in a capacity to help California's disconnected youth get connected."
Jevon Wilkes has dedicated over 14 years to CCY as a Youth Board Member and the Membership Vice-Chair for the organization. Jevon received a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies from the California State University Channel Islands.
Jevon's passion for serving vulnerable youth populations comes from his lived experience with homelessness, the foster care system, and being a disconnected youth, giving him a wide understanding of the vital work CCY is doing. Jevon is excited to lead CCY forward and answer the call of thousands of youth in need of support and to spearhead the effort in advocating for public policies that improve their lives and help them learn how to empower themselves.
Upcoming FREE Webinar by Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting -
SAVE THE DATE: January 24, 2023 12 - 1 pm ET
Occupational Therapy to Help Children Cope with Trauma: Featuring guest speaker and trauma-informed occupational therapist Maddie Rutherford. Most of us realize that children can benefit from mental health therapy for traumatic experiences, but did you know that occupational therapy can also be an important piece of the puzzle? Learn what occupational therapy is, how it can help children cope, and practical skills you can use in the aftermath of developmental trauma.
Trauma-Informed Children's Book -
A Grandfamily for Sullivan is a therapeutic book about kinship families, aka relatives raising other relatives children. This tender story is about a grandmother and a grandson who suddenly have to live together when his parents cannot keep him safe. I published this book based on my experiences as a trauma therapist for kinship families. The book answers Sullivan's big questions like, "Is this my fault?" and "What will happen next?" with age-appropriate, trauma-responsive language. With 2.8 million grandfamilies in the United States every therapist, teacher, and social worker needs a copy! Purchase a copy HERE.
Exciting News -
I was appointed the co-chair of the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Prevention Team under Governor Tom Wolf's Office of Advocacy and Reform. I am honored to serve to prevent and heal trauma in my home state of Pennsylvania. We are looking for volunteers for this action team and several others through our coalition called HEAL PA. The goal of this coalition is to make PA a trauma-informed and healing-centered state across all sectors. Please contact me if you are interested in getting involved.
I met trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry last month and he gave our Connections Matter Academy videos his seal of approval! I am a co-creator of the academy and spent the better part of last year writing the content for each video along side the remarkable Dr. Linda Karlovec. The CMA is an animated video series to help teens understand and cope with the impact of trauma.
I was selected to speak on ambiguous loss at the 26th National Symposium on Children’s Grief, which will take place on June 14 – 16, 2023, in Pittsburgh, PA.
From their website:
The National Alliance for Children’s Grief (NACG) Symposium is the longest-running and most comprehensive Childhood Bereavement Symposium offered in the United States. The NACG Symposium draws more than 400 children’s grief support professionals and volunteers from a variety of organizations throughout and outside the United States each year.
I hope you can join us this summer at this incredible conference to support children's grief.
On a personal note…
The holiday season is always a mixture of emotions for me. As much as I LOVE me some Christmas cheer, I am also acutely aware that my mother is missing from the celebration. So I honor her by repeating the traditions she created for me as a child. A few of my favorites are baking cookies, watching the Charlie Brown special with my daughter, buying Christmas PJs to open on Christmas Eve, and playing holiday music non-stop in our house. Below is a pic of our living room this year. I wish you a magical little holiday season and a hopeful new year!
With grief, hope, and love,
Beth Tyson, MA, is a childhood trauma consultant, 3x best-selling author, and an advocate for children in the child welfare system. She founded Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting in 2019 based on her experience as a trauma therapist for foster, kinship, and adoptive families. Beth now provides trauma-responsive training and guidance to organizations that believe in supporting the mental health of children and families.
Please contact her today to schedule speaking, consulting, or training for your school or organization.