Do you have a child from a “hard place?”

Sometimes when connected parenting strategies are suggested, parents come back with, “But my child isn’t traumatized.”

Honestly, connected parenting is probably the best parenting for all children, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Dr. Karyn Purvis coined the term “hard place” and you may hear phrases like “children from hard places.” So what is a “hard place?”

hard places

  1. Prenatal stress or harm.

    For children adopted at birth, it is likely that their pregnancy was not planned which automatically leads to a more stressful prenatal experience than most children. For children whose birth mother’s lived in places of extreme poverty, the stress of not knowing when the next meal was or where to sleep every night manifests as elevated cortisol levels. Even if your child is not adopted, many parents, when prompted, can recall an unusually high stress situation during pregnancy (extreme morning sickness, death in the family, contingent house buying or selling). Some research shows that stressful pregnancies can be linked to higher cortisol levels in children as long as 10 years later! (1)

  2. Difficult labor or birth.

    Whether labor lasted for days on end or the cord was wrapped numerous times around baby’s neck causing oxygen deprivation or there was an emergency C-section, all of these cause surges of high cortisol levels in mama and consequently babies. (2)

  3. Early medical trauma. 

    Infants with early medical issues and premature babies are often incubated or need care in a way that impacts the amount of physical touch they would normally receive. The decrease touch time (3) paired with the over-stimulation of their under-developed sensory system can have long-lasting impacts (4).

  4. Trauma. 

    While most link trauma to events such as car crashes and violence, it also includes separation from family members (5) and change of primary caregiver (6).

  5. Neglect. 

    Even if a child’s basic physical needs are met, emotional neglect can have a profound impact. (7) Many children who were institutionalized before coming home also show signs of neglect.(8)

  6. Abuse. 

    Along with neglect, abuse seems like an obvious “hard place.” (9) Prenatal substance exposure also falls in this category. (10)

It’s important to note that prenatal stress, difficult birthing process, early medical trauma, and change of primary caregiver are often overlooked. Additionally, the first four risk factors can all apply to children even if they were adopted at birth (which is often misconceived as a lower risk adoption).

How many of the risk factors apply to your family?

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