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Feature Articles

Trigger Day
What to do when early traumas
continue to impact your kids

By Carrie Dahlin

Kezia screamed with such force that I could see on her face that she was physically in pain. My new 4-year-old foster daughter sat on her knees by my front door, and held her throat with her quivering hands as the rage escaped her body. Her voice screamed anger and yet her silent eyes screamed sadness.

Both Kezia and I were drained from this event after already having several similar moments that day. With a handful of other kids in the home I was in a flurry of panic and frustration, not knowing how far this meltdown would escalate. I once again felt like I had to quickly prepare for battle, knowing I needed to be purposeful in my parenting to help her get through this.

Today was visit day. Every week we had a cycle of anger, sadness and disclosure. Once she was exhausted from the raging anger, Kezia would sob with heavy tears. She would then unfold her past through her broken words and digest her pain as best she could. We did this routine every week, if not more.

So there we were, in our long entryway, while the rest of the children watched a movie in the other room, sometimes plugging their ears from the piercing screams. I sat with my back against the wall looking at this sweet girl who had lived with too much violence in her short life. She had seen too much, she had been moved too many times, and of no fault of her own, she did not know how to digest all she had been through.

There was nothing left to throw or spit on or kick with her bare feet. I knew that I had to rise above the frustration inside as I watched her break the decorative bells hanging on my doorknob, throw my rugs down the hallway and try to damage my house in order to show me she was hurting inside.

I had told Kezia when she first moved in, just two short months earlier, that she could always ask for a hug, no matter what was going on. While we were in the middle of this long meltdown, I saw that she was fighting a battle of wanting to be loved and trying to push me away. She wept and was calling me names and yelling angry insults at me, but then she screamed, “I need a hug.”

I had to exhale my exhaustion and wrap my arms around her sweaty body and hug her with all of the love I had to give. I crawled over to her and scooped her into my arms. I rocked her like a baby, talking quietly to her.

Watching a child hurt is heart wrenching. Watching their pain on a regular basis can make you weary like you have never known, but realizing that what they are going through is even more difficult than you parenting through the rage, is almost too much to bear.

We must try to remember their perspective in order to breathe deep and keep calm when we are caring for a child who wants to hurt us as much as he or she aches inside.

Visitation was near and even though I know this sweet girl misses her parents and loves them with all of her heart; seeing them each week is a reminder of the situation at hand. It is a reminder that she was taken from them, that she wasn’t kept safe when she was with them. It is a reminder that she is torn between two worlds and has no control about which way she will go.

I held Kezia tight, and felt her body slowly relax with every breath she took. I whispered love into her ears and wiped the tears from her cheeks. I played with her curls as I silently said good-bye to this day, this trigger day, until next week when I will see it’s face again. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carrie Dahlin is the author of “What Led Me to You.” She lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband and seven children. Dahlin is passionate about connecting with other foster parents and helping them get the support they need as they spend many of their days living in the trenches. You can connect with Dahlin at www.CarrieDahlin.com, where she often shares her heart and more of their story. 

Feature Article Archive

July/August 2015
Reunification/Birth Family Connection

May/June 2015
National Foster Care Month

March/April 2015
Working with Agencies

January/February 2015
Mental Health

November/December 2014
The Foster Parent Calling

September/October 2014
Attachment & Trauma

July/August 2014
Parenting Teens

May/June 2014
Celebrating National Foster Care Month

March/April 2014
Working within the System

January/February 2014
The Dynamics of Working with Birth Parents and Kinship Caregivers

November/December 2013
Navigating Behavioral Issues with Children

September/October 2013
Back to School Parenting Guide

July/August 2013
Traditional Versus Therapeutic Foster Care

May/June 2013
National Foster Care Month

March/April 2013

January/February 2013
Kinship Care

November/December 2012
Understanding the Impact of Trauma and Abuse

September/October 2012
Nurturing Identity

July/August 2012
Working with Birth Families 

May/June 2012
Celebrating National
Foster Care Month:
Finding Support 

March/April 2012
Parenting Teens 

January/February 2012
Grief, Loss & Anger in Foster Care

November/December 2011
Promoting Better Communication Among the Foster Care Team 

July/August 2011
Discipline Techniques for Foster Parenting

May/June 2011
Celebrating National Foster Care Month

September/October 2011

March/April 2011
The Impact of Social Networking on Foster Care

January/February 2011
My Personal Foster Care Experience and What I've Learned

November/December 2010
Support Organizations Provide Assistance to Foster Families, Children

September/October 2010
The Importance of Keeping Siblings Connected in Foster Care

July/August 2010
Foster Care Health Care: Finding alternative therapies for healing 

May / June 2010
Celebrate National Foster Care Month and Foster Families Nationwide

March/April 2010
Kinship Care - The best interest for children or a foster care alternative?

January/February 2010
Emancipation or Family - Uncovering what's best for teens  

November/December 2009
Discovering What Foster Parents Really Need to Parent

July/August 2009
The Importance of Continuing Education for Foster Parents

May/June 2009
Celebrating National Foster Care Month

March/April 2009
Tips for Parenting Children into the Teen Years 

January/February 2009
Finding the Money Connection in Foster Care

November/December 2008
Looking Ahead at the Future of Foster Car

September/October 2008
Living the Daily Realities of Foster Care 

July/August 2008
Recognizing the Importance of Birth Parent Connection  

May/June 2008
Celebrate National Foster Care Month in May 

March/April 2008
Encouraging Foster Parents to Take Care of Themselves  

January/February 2008
Tips to Help Parents Tackle the Teenage Years

November/December 2007
Becoming the Best Parent for Children in Your Care

July/August 2007
Helping Children and Families Cope with Special Needs Issues

May / June 2007
The Power of Family

March / April 2007
Fostering Un
derstanding in Our Schools

January / February 2007
Finding Inner Peace in Parenting

November / December 2006
Are You My Family?

September / October 2006
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars

July / August 2006
Traditionally Speaking

May / June 2006
From Ward of the State to Defender of the Country

March / April 2006
Becoming Foster Parents

January / February 2006
Thank You, Foster Parents!

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