Monday, September 16, 2013

Triggers -- Understanding from a Foster Child's Perspective Part 3

By John Ross
Reprinted with permission

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, John relayed how triggers develop. Now he gives us suggestions on how we can be more understanding as foster parents.

"Knowing what is played back in their head for each trigger, helps a great deal..."

This happens to some kids when they go home for supervised or unsupervised visits. That’s where the abuse took place for some of them. So, it stands to reason their behavior would be poorly when they return to our homes. Why would anyone expect every child to come back acting wonderfully pleasant? Bio doesn’t have to always do something to upset the child. The place for some is a trigger in of itself. I hear foster parents complain a lot about how horrible the kids behave after they return from visits with bio. For some kids, I expect it.

They don’t need a trigger; they are visiting where the incidents took place. The example would be; if I had just eaten the raw oatmeal without smelling it first. I then would not have to smell the raw oatmeal to trigger the incident of me eating it in the past, I am already eating it. So the kids don’t need triggers from our homes to bring back the incidents that took place in their homes, when they are visiting the environment where the incidents were created. So when they’ve been in my home, away from their abusive environment, and only remember the abuse if they have a trigger in my home, then they go home for a visit, I don’t complain when they come back with poor behavior. I can report it, and do, but not as a complaint.

I look at their bio visits as a fresh coat of paint on the walls of their emotions. The smell will be there for a while after the visit, but it will soon go away. Only when they smell fresh paint again (the trigger) will they remember the incidents that got them into foster care in the first place. Just an example with the paint.

When we understand “how” triggers affect our kids, we are in a better position to either help them, or seek out the best support for them. All of the triggers that I have learned that are for certain; I pass what is appropriate along to the school. I pass all of it along to the therapist. I include them in my weekly/monthly reports to the social worker/attorney. Keeping everyone on the same page helps a great deal.

These are just my thoughts from the perspective of a foster parent. I am not a therapist nor psychologist, so I don’t impart this as having a degree in this field. The only degree I have is life itself. It is only factual in that I myself experienced it and dealt with it here and there and learned something from it that has helped me a great deal in helping the kids that come through my home.

John Ross is a fellow foster parent who enjoys sharing advice with others who are along this journey.

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