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Healing After Reunification National Family Reunification Day Nikki Lively, LCSW Faith Kumar, M.A., LCPC, CCBT Laura Timmel, LCSW.

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Presentation on theme: "Healing After Reunification National Family Reunification Day Nikki Lively, LCSW Faith Kumar, M.A., LCPC, CCBT Laura Timmel, LCSW."— Presentation transcript:

1 Healing After Reunification National Family Reunification Day Nikki Lively, LCSW Faith Kumar, M.A., LCPC, CCBT Laura Timmel, LCSW

2 Objectives To understand the impact of trauma and separation on children’s behavior. To understand and normalize the stress on the parent-child relationship of separation. To increase strategies for parents to cope and effectively communicate with their children to ease the transition in reunification.

3 Relational/Attachment perspective The needs of the child and the needs of the parent are considered together Emphasis on the importance of relationships in repairing social- emotional ruptures (Tomlin & Viehweg, 2003)

4 Trauma Defined An event or series of events that is accompanied by intense terror and helplessness, and which overwhelms our abilities to cope. Accompanying all trauma is the loss of safety, predictability, and security in the world.

5 Healing by sharing our stories Tell us the story of how your family came to be separated by the child welfare system

6 Impact on parents of separation trauma Anger Rage Fear Powerlessness Shame Grief Loss of confidence in parenting Acute psychological distress decreases the ability to solve problems and be emotionally available to others

7 Impact on children of separation trauma Differs based on developmental stage General areas of functioning that are impacted in children by trauma include: –Triggered patterns of dysregulation in affective, somatic, behavioral, cognitive, relational, and self-attributional domains –Altered expectancies and perceptions including fears of abandonment, negative self-attributions, loss of protection, etc. –Functional impairment in educational, familial, and peer spheres (Lieberman & Van Horn, 2008)

8 Impact on children of separation trauma #1 Protective factor in managing traumatic experiences is having caring adults to assist them in making sense of what is/what has happened.

9 Impact on the family “Families are fragmented, and then carry with them the inner experiences associated with loss, separation and disrupted relationships” (Farmer, E., 1996) High levels of life stress (ex. Home loss, job loss, financial problems, etc.) Difficulties interacting with one another Difficulties between parent and child/children in setting limits, discipline, or managing other expectations

10 Healing by sharing our stories What behaviors have you noticed in your children that you believe are a result of the trauma of being separated from you? What feelings and behaviors did you notice in yourself as a result of the separation trauma?

11 Attachment Theory Tendency for people to form close personal relationships to specific others that: –Support them in times of stress –Help them feel secure –Form the basis for an “inner working model” of self and others (Bowlby, 1969/1982)

12 Functions of Attachment Biological = Protection from danger Social = Felt security in times of stress Provision of a “stronger and wiser” partner –Secure Base –Haven of Safety Creating “roots and wings”

13 2000-Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell

14 Healing by sharing our stories What changes did you notice in your relationship(s) with your child/children during and after the period of separation? What did your children seem to need from you? What did you notice that you needed?

15 Applying Attachment Theory to Healing Parent-Child Relationships

16 Circle of Security (COS) Core emotional requirements for healthy social and emotional development: –Soothing = Emotional states shared/confirmed/sponsored during times of distress (i.e. it is OK to have this feeling) –Delight = Emotional states shared/confirmed/sponsored during times of pleasure The experience of co-regulation teaches children that emotional states are knowable, shareable, and not overwhelming (Bowlby, 1992; Marvin & Britner, 1999)

17 COS For a child, any emotion that is not “met” or “held” by a caregiver is experienced as “unregulated affect” –Unregulated affect = the experience of being all alone in an emotion that feels too big for us to manage on our own (2000 Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell

18 COS theory “Bad things happen” a.k.a. parents miss opportunities to help their child make sense of their feelings The good news is that security is built on experiences of rupture and repair – the parent’s job is to notice the rupture 2000-Cooper, Hoffman, Marvin & Powell

19 Reflective Functioning The parent’s capacity to hold in mind their own mental states, those of their child, and the ongoing interplay between the two Improving parental RF allows the parent to make sense of, and thus help regulate, their child’s levels of arousal and affect –If parents can accurately understand what their child needs, they will be better able to provide it (Fonagy, et al, 1991)

20 Promoting Reflective Functioning Asking open-ended questions: –What is it like for you when your child does X? –How do you feel when this happens? –What do you think your child is thinking/feeling when they do X? –What do you imagine your child is needing in those moments? –What do you need in those moments?


22 The Journey of Imperfect Parenting Guideposts for the Journey Practice loving-kindness Embrace imperfection Understand shame and practice resilience Make space for rest, creativity and gratitude Hold spirit sacred Make mistakes, make amends Learn hope Practice forgiveness and self-compassion Lean into discomfort and pain Practice courage by setting limits and respecting boundaries Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW

23 How can parents resolve their grief? Grieving in isolation can increase potentially harmful, negative feelings (esp. shame) Telling our stories is healing –Talking to an empathic, knowledgeable person who knows the child welfare system Practice empathy, understanding and acceptance of yourself

24 Factors that support family healing Offering predictable daily routines (e.g. bedtime rituals, meal time rituals, etc.) Finding specific things, events, or people to be grateful for as a family healing together Creating and identifying new things to look forward to together in your future

25 Family Resiliency The ability of a family to respond positively to an adverse event and emerge strengthened, more resourceful, and more confident (Simon, J.B., et al, 2005) Develops (not by an evasion of adverse events) but through a family’s successful use of their protective factors to cope and become stronger (O’Leary, 1998) Resilience is a process, rather than an outcome (Rutter, 1999)

26 Healing by sharing our stories What has helped your family build resilience to your separation trauma? What strategies have you used as a parent to heal your relationship(s) with your child/children?

27 Healing = Struggling Together and Talking About It!

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