Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 May 2015
This paper is based on a presentation I gave to the Childhood Trauma Conference in Melbourne, Australia, August 2014.
Children traumatised within their biological families are described as children who have experienced complex trauma, also called developmental trauma because of the profound impact it has on their development. These children present a range of challenging behaviours within their foster or adoptive families. They respond less well to traditional behavioural management and benefit more from regulatory and relationship-based parenting. This is parenting that focuses on helping the children to regulate their emotional experience through the emotional connection between parent and child before attention is given to the behaviour. Developmentally traumatised children have a foundation of mistrust of parents and thus experience management of behaviour as signs that they are going to be hurt or rejected again. These children need parents who can connect with the child's experience before, or when appropriate instead of, discipline. This is described here as ‘connection before correction’. Correction in this context means helping children to develop pro-social behaviours and to find safe ways to express intense emotional experience. This paper explores the difficulties that the children can experience living in families; how this is expressed through behaviours, and how parents can connect in ways that promote the building of trust and allows successful management of their behaviour.