Questions for Parents and Families When Facing Trauma

Families often alternate between:

  • blaming the woman who is harming herself by bingeing / drugging / cutting / engaging in abusive relationships, and
  • trying unsuccessfully to rescue her

Even when they acknowledge that the origins of her self-harm come from her childhood trauma, they are often angry because she seems to reject all levels of well-intentioned help.

It is important to help the family to stop asking “Why” questions like “Why does X continue to binge? or “Why does she keep on talking about the past?” Or “Why can’t she just get on with her life?”

Families should be reminded that non-verbal activities are particularly useful. Walking together is something most people in families can do, either in two’s or groups; hugging is often more helpful than trying to talk through the problem in the same old way. Singing, dancing, meditating, cooking, painting, gardening are other ways.

Questions for families:

  • What is it that X is trying to tell us?
  • What has each family member already tried to do to change the impact of this self-harm?
  • How can each member of the family get involved in fighting against the reenactment of the trauma in a way that is supportive of the woman?
  • Is their any trauma being reenacted in your own lives?
  • What would help you to understand that the woman reenacting trauma is doing the best she can do at the moment?
  • What might help each member of this family understand that letting go of self-harming behaviors takes more than the “just say no” approach.
  • Based on your experience, are their specific ways this family interacts that have been proven to be helpful?

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