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How do you distinguish between terrible 2’s and effects of trauma?

6 replies

FairyBatman · 02/10/2019 20:00

Just that really, DS is 3 in a few weeks and has been placed for about a year and a half. The last few weeks he seems to be really cross all the time and flies off the handle at the slightest thing, tears, stamping kicking etc. After he is always very teary and sorry.

My niece is about 9 months older and went through quite a similar phase.

My question is when do you worry and when is it normal terrible 2’s...

OP posts:
FlatheadScrewdriver · 03/10/2019 09:41

Good question! From what you say about age and placement age, I wouldn't be surprised if he was going through the "2s" developmental stage a little later than other children - I wouldn't be at all concerned if that was the case.

I think you can only give it time, you know your DS best. Children this age do struggle to regulate emotions, and do get overwhelmed by what seem to be the tiniest things. However, sometimes we are talking a whole different scale, and that's when I would start to think trauma.

To be honest, whichever it is you are not going to do any harm by ramping up the security, reassurance and nurturing. Those things will help whether it's age or trauma. Have you tried any gentle theraplay games with him? They can be lovely to restore connection, for both of you. Do them during calm times, they're not strategies to be used in the heat of the moment!

You can help a bit with naming the feelings for him too, so he is not so scared by the feelings themselves. "I can see you're angry that it's time to go home. It's hard to feel so angry, it's not comfy in your body, I wonder if you feel hot and full of feelings?" Afterwards you can let him know that all these feelings are normal, they will pass, and you're always there to help him with them.

mamoosh · 03/10/2019 10:23

I think in reality it is very difficult. We did a parenting course for adoptive families and the trainers also said it is hard to know in this age group. There were some occasions when it was obvious eg we had some issues around food and also separation that seemed more extreme than other children. So we manage those situations therapeutically. But overall, it’s often a mystery, especially if your little one is strong willed :-).

sassygromit · 05/10/2019 11:55

I agree with pps, but just to say also that it could also be other things affecting behaviour at that age other than trauma - eg ear or throat infection or pain or a virus which they cannot pinpoint or explain with words yet, changes to routine, overtired for whatever reason, something which has upset them. They are going through momentous changes.

One of mine used to sit on the pavement and scream their head off occasionally - an old lady once passed and said sweetly "I had one of those - he turned out fine" Smile On the other hand, my eldest became seriously ill when 2, and people kept telling me their behaviour was normal (things like chucking toys around) - I knew it was out of character and that something was wrong - so remember you know your child, and have regard to your intuition.

You have probably already read up widely about what is "normal" at any given time and what is happening developmentally, and plan activities around that, so otherwise just stay vigilante and have regard to your intuition.

Moominmammaatsea · 05/10/2019 13:20

Just to echo the posters above, trying to separate out the individual causes of our children's behaviours is probably the six million dollar question for adopters! It's only with the benefit of hindsight (I'm nearly 11 years in with a child placed as a baby), that I can begin to pinpoint differences between my daughter and her neurotypical/non-care experienced peers.

I think so much adoption training and advice (probably correctly) is predicated on the fact that there will be problems ahead, that we naturally adopt the brace position and become hyper vigilant to the nuances of behaviours.

I agree with Sassy above, though, you are the expert on your child and your gut instinct is important; it can be difficult to maintain this position, though, in the face of often differing opinions from the so-called experts! Just to corroborate Sassy, my child, placed as a baby with no significant issues, was recently registered blind, due to a very sudden and unexpected loss of sight. It's plain to me now that a lot of the physical manifestations of issues (never being able to learn to ride a bike, having the proverbial two left feet and always covered in bruises from clumsy trips and falls, among many others) were due to her complex eye conditions.

I've learned that the expression 'they all do that!' is a cross that adopters have to bear from well-meaning friends and family! My truth has been, yes, they probably do, but it's magnified to the power of a billion with my two adopted children.

If I had my time over again, I'd keep a diary logging concerns, dates and incidents, in order to help me identify patterns of behaviours (took me years to start to do this) and as evidence for any future possible interventions.

Moominmammaatsea · 05/10/2019 13:58

Just to add, in my experience and the experience of many adopters in my friendship and acquaintance group, the 'differences' between adopted and non-care experienced children become more apparent when they start school.

ifchocolatewerecelery · 05/10/2019 23:28

We've found AD's behaviour now she's 3 much more challenging than when she was 2. Partly because she can now talk and that complicates matters because what she says and what she means/feels are very often completely different. Also unconsciously we started to expect more from her - it's hard not to get caught up in expectations over reality, especially when your friends with children of a similar age have them about their kids.

To be honest I try and respond to her behaviour the same way and use PACE regardless of whether I believe it to be three-nager or trauma.

Now she's been home 2 years it's easier to see some patterns are personality, especially at meals, some are hyper vigilance, especially at birthday parties and some are just tiredness because being 3 takes a lot of energy.

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