Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Siblings and that trauma bond

You know. THAT trauma bond. Ugh. When certain siblings remind the other of their past and all things bad, or perhaps they have just transferred much of their fear and sadness into blaming that one sibling. I actually think it may be worse than the anger they have shown to me.  So how to deal with this. And it must be dealt with because physical harm and property damage happens if it is not watched carefully.

Here are some of the things we have tried. Keep in mind we change things up often because nothing works forever.

They cannot be in the same room if an adult is not present. So if Taz walks in and Teddy is the only one there, he is to turn and walk out. Does it always happen? NO. They seek each other out intentionally when they want to fight with someone.  And why do they want to fight? Because sadness, fear, frustration, fatigue all turn into anger. It has happened for years. We work on it daily.

They are not to speak negatively of the other person to me. "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all" is a phrase used often.

Have them think of two things they like about the other person every time they say a negative. They really don't like that one and often it nips the negative comments because they don't want to say anything nice about the other.

Keep activities that involve both kids short and really fun. A going for a "nature walk" and going out for a treat are two of the best activities we have done with our sons. When you are walking everyone is heading in the same direction (sort of) they can stop and explore around the lake. Sometimes we take the camera and look for things that would make neat photos.It burns off energy. If there are any problems I just say I have to be in the middle! When we go out for a treat, they are never sitting across from each other (kicking under table) or next to each other (elbows fly). These activities can be fun.

Refuse to get caught up in the drama. Just say "This has nothing to do with me. I hope you two can work it out".  That takes a lot of the fun out of it for them as they really want mom to step in and escalate things. De-escalation is an art form but it is not that tough if you just stay calm, use a calm voice and remember if it is not important just refuse to get involved.

A conversation can go like this:

Teddy: I hate Taz. He is a jerk
Me: I love Taz and I don't want to hear negative things about him
Teddy: That's because you don't know him and you don't know what he is really like.
Me: Brothers sometimes fight, but I'm his mom. I love him and I don't want to talk bad about him and you shouldn't either. It is not what families do. We are loyal.
Teddy then may go into shame, rather than guilt and hang his head and say sadly "Yesss."
Me: Remember, I am not saying you are bad. I do not think you are bad.Don't feel it in your heart. Put it back up into your head and just think "Yes. I shouldn't talk like that about family." And then go on your way!

Easy peasy.

It will be interesting to see how this trauma bond changes as they become adults. Teddy is 18 and Taz is 16 so that isn't too far away. I hope they can mend some fences, but if not, they won't have to live in the same house, which may make life much easier for both.


Becky said...

I am so glad to know that this is normal for RAD. ;-) I have taken to remaining calm as I can, not getting involved and letting them work it out. Sometimes we have to step in. When they do get along it is quite amazing.

sea salt MOSAIC said...


TODAY is the first day I have EVER been to your blog and TODAY we are living this *nonsense*!

It is truly overwhelming. it's as though the two involved go into this crazy feeding frenzy bickering with each other and then they simultaneously infest everyone else with their lousy attitudes - and then there I stand, sunk into muck and mayhem. ugh. this "rots". do you think it's possible to cry your way into a regulater situation or will it always involve an obscene amount of brownies quickly shoved in your mouth to keep yourself from joining the crazy!?!


thank you for making me feel part of the club today

Brenda said...

Sea Salt,

LOL! First of all CONGRATS on keeping your sense of humor! : ) Divide and conquer. . . Keep them apart. When mine were little I'd put one in front of a DVD, one in their room and one in the kitchen with me doing an activity such as legos. Every half hour we'd switch.

Trauma Mama said...

Awesome post!

We have been dealing with this a lot and I have been trying to figure out the best way to handle it.


Erika said...

Mine are pretty young (elementary-middle school ages), but I'll share some of the things that work with us. My girls are so good at this sibling thing that even when it seems like they are saying something nice, it's actually meant to hurt the other. It's a constant "I have more than you" "No, I have more than you" conversation. Whoever wins is the one who doesn't flip out. And by the way, they each feel cheated - they just want to make sure that the other feels MORE cheated. I find that if I can interrupt it while it's still invisible to the untrained eye - and by interrupt, I mean that I hold up the mirror and ask them if they also see themselves playing that "i have more" game - it prevents a TON of problems. Sometimes I'll jump in and say what one is about to say - that makes them stop and think about how I knew what was about to be said and then they figure out that they are in the middle of this game. We also assigned "who's first today" when they first arrived. Every Monday ___ was first; Every Tuesday ___ was first. It was posted. That's first for everything. First to sit down in the dentist chair. First to order the ice cream. I can't tell you how much that cut down on their sibling animosity. After a year, we didn't need it. And the other thing I do is I say out loud, "wow you have an awesome sister" all day long each time I notice something one does that is nice to the other. It maybe took 3 years before I started hearing them say it on their own, but it's pretty cool. Just yesterday I heard, "my sister is awesome because she saved a cookie from her class party for me". When our girls first arrived, we put them in a room together so that they'd be less afraid. There were so many sibling squabbles in that situation - we were stuck in our mindset and it took us at least a year to figure out that they'd be better off in separate rooms. BUT, I just found out recently that many nights, one would ask if she could sleep in the bed with the other - then they'd jump from one bed to the other so as not to awake us - and they'd comfort each other. SOOOO sweet. And a couple of weeks ago, one got stuck in a prickly bush and was crying (apparently) and the other saved her. Again, sooo sweet. Now that's what being a good sister is all about. I talk about these events a lot with them and they have been written down so that they will never forget these sweet moments.

Brenda said...


That is some great info! Thanks!