Mama Trauma: Helping Mothers Develop Secure Attachment
Written by Lorna Demedeiros, RSW
The relationship between a mother and her child is the most influential social connection in human existence.
This relationship lays the foundation for the child’s life, his/her personality, how they perceive the world, their life choices, and other important aspects of life.
Experiencing any form of trauma – but especially complex trauma which often involves chronic abuse from a caregiver during a period of crucial neurodevelopment – can affect one’s ability to form secure attachments with people in their lives.
Furthermore, a mother’s bond with her child can act as a substantial buffer against the damage of trauma when her child is securely attached.
Read about Attachment Theory and Attachment Styles.
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A culturally appropriate, attachment-based therapy program may be an effective treatment for mothers who have experienced trauma or distress in their childhood.
Such therapies could also help with strained attachments with their own mothers or caregivers, or some form of trauma in their adulthood, including domestic violence and substance abuse issues.
Therapy could address relational trauma, which involves the mother responding inappropriately to her infant’s attempt to seek care from her and the child developing fear due to lack of support which cannot be resolved by their mother’s presence.
This would include helping them identify and become attuned to their own emotions to help them identify those emotions in their children, and highlighting the inherent resilience necessary to navigate life as a mother.
Therapy would likely also help mothers unlearn maladaptive coping strategies, helping them correctly respond to their child’s needs and diminish the fear a mother feels when they misattribute their trauma to their child’s distress.
It is important to focus treatment on processing the mothers’ own childhood trauma to aid in redefining their connection with their children.
The benefits of therapy could include:
- A decrease in depressive symptoms
- Decrease in post-traumatic stress symptoms
- Increase in positive child-rearing responses
- Improved connection and bond with child
- Improvement in overall quality of life
Therapy Prior to Giving Birth
Mental healthcare workers would recommend that therapy for mothers who have experienced trauma in their lives, to begin as early in their pregnancies as possible.
Mothers would be equipped with the attachment skills and education around their trauma prior to their children’s birth needed to improve their connection with their babies post-partum.
New mothers may wish to continue accessing effective therapy post-partum, especially if they have found pre-natal counselling to be helpful in understanding past trauma, emotional triggers, and dysfunctional behaviours.
It is important to note that bonding interventions do not have to be restricted to infancy, and can be introduced at any time.
Importance of A Support System
It is not surprising that mothers who have experienced trauma do better when they have supportive families to help keep them well. It really does take a village to raise a child and support a new mother.
They could also rely on their support network to take care of their children when they need a break.
Mental health service providers are now establishing the level of family support the mother has upon entering counselling, and integrating supportive family members into the mother’s care plan.
Mothers can also benefit from connecting with other mothers in similar situations. There are group meetings at hospitals, community centres, or privately organized groups, where mothers can go for support, validation, and encouragement.
Ultimately, the goal is for traumatized mothers to manage their own triggers and form meaningful bonds with their children to prevent intergenerational transmission of trauma, and to set their children up for success later on in life.
There are many tools to assist mothers in breaking the cycle of abuse and trauma and redefine their attachment styles for the sake of their children.
Give us a call today, meet with our Child and Family Therapist Lorna Demedeiros RSW, and find out how counselling could help you.
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