My Learning Curve: Healing through Reenactment

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Parenting children with trauma histories requires a whole new level of research and thought about how to handle particular behaviors, wounds, and relationships. I’m pretty sure I should have an honorary doctorate by now.

Thankfully, we don’t have to figure it all out on our own. There are wonderful therapists, books, videos, and even blogs written by folks just like us who are giving this parenting-kids-from-hard-places gig all they’ve got.

I read a post on a friend’s blog that is fantastic. Ann wrote about helping her child heal from a very painful memory by reenacting the event in a loving, nurturing way. She writes,

In trying to heal that child’s trauma we came up with the idea of a “reenactment.”  It wasn’t enough to tell our child how it should have been–we decided to show them!

This particular trauma was over a hospitalization that occurred prior to adoption. The child experienced fear and abandonment while left alone for long periods of time. Ann, being a very clever mom, devoted a day to reenacting the hospital stay at home, complete with special foods and get well cards from relatives.


On a smaller scale, this is what we’re doing when we hold and rock our children, even when they seem too old. So many of our children were not nurtured in their first years of life, they cried and nobody came, they were hungry and nobody fed them.

I remember Russ gathering Kalkidan up in his arms, holding her like a baby, and the two of us ooh-ing and ahh-ing over her cuteness. We talked about her sweet, little nose, and pretty eyes. It was silly, brief, and light-hearted,  and I’m certain she loved it. Perhaps in that moment she experienced a sliver of the parental adoration she missed in her first year of life.

When Kalkidan could tolerate it, I rocked her and fed her bits of food. She loved this and sometimes would relax in my arms. I still remember the Christmas when everything fell apart and we were able to put the day back together with a rocking chair and a bowl of mashed potatoes.

Have you used reenactment to help your child heal? Do you have a story you can share with us? I would love to hear from you; please leave a comment.

Have a great Monday, friends. The sun is shining at my house and my maple trees are glorious.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. ahhodgman
    October 5, 2015

    Wow, do I love this.

  2. ahhodgman
    October 5, 2015

    P.S. And this would work on plain old "wrong side of the bed" days, not just for traumatic events!

  3. Emily
    October 5, 2015

    I love this pic.

    The stories about you guys with Kalkidan made me choke up. Missing her and missing your chances to rock her for you.

    Love you.

  4. Carrie
    October 5, 2015

    We adopted a sibling group of four little girls (2, 3, 3, and 4 at the time) from foster care They were severely neglected (enough to require PT, OT and speech for over a year), but had been in healthy foster homes for a year prior to our home. They've been in our home for over a year now, and from the very beginning I rocked them. For naps and for bedtime. We were very intentional about doing that, about holding them cradled similar to a baby, rather than just sitting on our laps, and wrapped or at least snuggled into a blanket every time. It was a long, hard year of going from 0 to 4 children, so very close in age (from the same birth mother)…and we were overwhelmed so much of the time. But rocking was something we could count on, as well as our girls counting on it. No matter how crazy the day was, we could have some sweet moments in rocking. I think this type of 'make up' or 're-do' is beneficial for parents too. It has given me more bonding time to be nurturing them so consistently.

  5. Brittany Gilbarte
    October 5, 2015

    My youngest brother, Kaden, has been home three years as of yesterday. He still is in the middle of everything. He's still trying to comprehend his past, and one of the way he copes is to "play baby". He's done it on and off since day 1. We even go so far as to put milk in a bottle and let him drink it as we sing lullabies to him before bed. It's like clockwork. Whenever something "unsetting" happens (like me starting school, summer coming to a close, transitions, etc) he asks to "play baby". Honestly, we're tired of playing baby, but we know he needs it. All kids who go through the loss of their birth parents and family are coming from hard places, but some definitely struggle with it more. We don't know about Kaden's background, but it's our job to love him… and put up with endless "baby" sessions.

  6. Alyssa
    October 5, 2015

    Our son came to us at 7 and at some point fell into playing baby at times. We would wrap him up and talk about how cute and tiny he was. We started "the baby songs" and he will still ask for them at 11 once in a while. We sing several little silly rhymes. This was the only time he would let me be affectionate to him for a long time. He also made up a game called "the egg" where he wraps up in a blanket like he's in an egg and I pretend to crack it open and discover a baby creature inside. I notice it's cute nose and big brown eyes and.. what's this? A tail? Wings? Turns out it's a baby dragon who needs a family. I offer him pretend milk but he only want meat so he can breathe fire on it! He loves it and says it calms him and it has been very good for both of us.


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