We have just experienced over a year of the COVID-19 virus with significant impact to our children. However, we have often left out of our discussions how important the role of caregivers and parents have been during this health crisis. Additionally, there are a number of caregivers who have significant trauma histories who are attempting to cope with their situations, their children and their own trauma.
Child Trends has published a very helpful article on this topic by author, Rebecca Vivrette. It openly provides descriptive terms to categorize the impact of trauma and then describes how difficult it has been and can be for parents and caregivers who also have their own trauma history.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
Parents and caregivers across the United States are facing unprecedented challenges, role shifts, and hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic that may negatively impact their parenting and their relationships with their children. Emerging research shows that parents and caregivers are experiencing more significant increases in stress during the pandemic than non-parents. For parents with unresolved histories of adversity and trauma—resulting from experiences such as abuse, assault, or domestic violence—the risks associated with pandemic-related stress may be further compounded….
Research shows that parents and caregivers with unresolved trauma-related stress may have difficulty responding consistently to their children and using positive parenting practices. During the pandemic, parents and caregivers with trauma histories may experience increased trauma and loss reminders, which can affect their emotional regulation, particularly when social contact is limited or fears about contracting COVID-19 are heightened. Emerging research shows that elevated parental stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with increased violence at home, harsher parenting, and increased child abuse potential.
Parents and caregivers with trauma histories may also identify with groups that experience worse health and mental health consequences related to COVID-19. As a result of systemic inequities such as poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, discrimination, and limited access to high-quality health care, Native American, Black, and Latinx people are more likely than White people to acquire, be hospitalized for, and die from COVID-19. These systemic inequities similarly increase risk for adversity, trauma, and disparate outcomes. Asian people have also experienced increased racism, anti-Asian xenophobia, and pandemic-fueled harassment and violence due to the origination of COVID-19 in China. The intersectionality of multiple parent/caregiver identities (e.g., race, ethnicity, income, trauma, and mental health history) and their associated values, norms, and risks plays a critical role in designing and implementing effective supports for parents and caregivers with trauma histories during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article is filled with principles and ideas to help parents and caregivers with their own trauma history find ways to provide stability for themselves and their children. It has some very helpful tips, strategies and support ideas for all parents and systems of care – especially those with a trauma history – in these unprecedented times.