There is really no way to capture this reality other than to live it, but FOR REALZ, one of the most unexpected and difficult day-to-day realities of parenting kids who have endured trauma is that some children process their previous hurt by making noise all the livelong day.
Big noise, little noise, white noise, background noise, main stage noise, all kinds and flavors and decibels of noise. And it is so stinkin’ painful. Physically painful. Mentally painful. Emotionally painful. Like, I am going to lose my ever lovin mind painful.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. All kids are noisy! I have a house full of boys and they are crazy all day long. My kids are always singing! My girls are SO loud! My kids sound like a herd of cattle stomping through the house! And, yes! Yes, all kids are noisy and drive us crazy in all sorts of normal ways. But also, No….
Not all kids chatter incessantly. Not all 10 year olds make baby noises when they want attention. Not all kids hum, drum, talk just to talk and fill the air, and “ummmm, mom or dad” you to death. Not all kids do these things. They don’t. I promise you this is true, as we do have a normal noisy child or four in our home. But we also have an attachment challenged child who takes incessant chatter to an entirely new place. A place that does not make the Traveler’s Choice Awards most sought after destination list. A quick google search for “attachment disorder and incessant chatter” will pull up more information than you probably care to read or digest.
Why do trauma kids make noise all the time? Well, I used to think that something about my child’s traumatized past made her feel like she would disappear if she wasn’t making noise. Like, something about her making noise validated her existence and kept her fear at bay. “If I’m making noise, I must still be here. Therefore, I must continue to make noise. Otherwise, I may cease to exist.” And I do believe this is part of reason.
Yet, another part of the reason is that her past trauma is not being sorted out yet in the part of her brain that logically and methodically processes information. According to Dr. Viatschslav, “Severe emotional trauma causes lasting changes in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex region of the brain that is responsible for regulating emotional responses triggered by the amygdala.” Because of an extremely volatile and traumatizing first two years of life, my daughter is almost always operating in a heightened state of fear and awareness. In oversimplified terms, her amygdala, which drives the fear-response center in the brain, operates in overdrive while her prefrontal cortex is essentially stalled out.
Alas, one of the fun ways this plays out is through incessant chatter. Now, if you have any introverted tendencies whatsoever, the constant noise vomit being hurled in your direction will be enough to make you go running for the hills. I have been told extroverts feel this way as well.
What can be done?
- First, we need to constantly remind ourselves that our children are operating out of a place of fear. They often do not know “why” they are making noise all the time. Sometimes I lose my crap and scream, “WHYYYY ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? WHY? I AM YOUR MOM!” But then I return to my senses and realize this is not a good tactic. Helpful, I know? If I have it in me at the moment, something that does work is holding my daughter on my lap and having us breathe, together, syncing our breaths. Breathe in, breathe out. Together. And, repeat. This benefits me just as much as it benefits her and it assures her that she is not alone. AND, we do this exercise in near silence. Thank you, Jesus!
- Second, invest in a good pair of noise canceling headphones. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these babies. In fact, I am wearing my super stylish accessory right now. White noise, all day long, flooding my head with thoughts of peace and tranquillity and a chatter free existence. Do some research, find a pair and make the investment in your sanity. YOU are worth it. 🙂
- Find time each and every day to be alone. Do something for just you, something you enjoy, something that makes you feel human or laugh. This is not a luxury, but is absolutely essential to keeping you healthy so that you can parent and nurture your special needs child or children. It is physically impossible to be bombarded with all that comes at us each day without also taking some time to replenish and restore. Whether you can capture just 20 minutes or a couple of hours, taking time to decompress, away from the chaos, is an antidote to the constant noise.
- Move your body. We all know that exercise has many physical and emotional health benefits. Yet, when we are busy caring for others, we often forget to take care of ourselves. Whether your thing is running, walking, practicing yoga, swimming, dancing, boxing or screaming at your personal trainer that you hate him or her, get yourself moving. You will be in a better position to embrace or deflect the incessant chatter when you return.
- Know that you are not alone. I have said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Anything that you are experiencing in your home or with your child is likely happening in thousands of other homes (and schools) across our country, and thousands more around the world. Research on early childhood trauma and the impact on development and behavior is increasing each day. When we connect with others and are assured that some do get it, it makes the world feel a little less lonely, a little more safe, and some days your village will provide that one word of encouragement needed to go on.
So, go on! Get those headphones and schedule in your you time. Take the breaks that you need to keep yourself healthy and whole and don’t feel guilty about it. You are important. You matter. Your health is important to the heath of your child. And who knows? Maybe after a nice long walk, the next time your child comes humming or singing in your direction, you might just be ready to hum right along back. OR, at least be ready to grab your headphones and meet the challenge at hand.
What about you? What have you found to be true? Have you found “fun” ways to keep this craziness light? What tips, tricks, therapies and techniques work for your and child?
Blessings and Rest,