Ready? Here we go.
First, general information about trauma.
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk - (I recently wrote about this on More Brain and Trauma Stuff) - If you want to really understand what trauma does to a person, read this book. If you understand the pervasive and systemic effects that trauma has upon a person's body and brain, the rest of these books, especially the parenting ones that often appear upside down to people, will make more sense and be more accessible. This book also has a section on EMDR and its use and success.
- Traumatic Experience and the Brain: A Handbook for Understanding and Treating Those Traumatized as Children by Dave Ziegler - This is possibly the best technical description of what happens in the brain as a result of trauma that I've read. (Note, it is not the best written description. The author's sentence fragments and comma splices made J. put it down.) While some of the information is probably more of use to therapists, it is still helpful as a parent to really understand what is going on and that these are actual physical effects that the child cannot help. If you're a brain geek, you will enjoy this book.
- The Body Knows its Mind: The Surprising Power of Physical Environment to Influence How You Think and Feel by Sian Beilock - (I wrote about it on Don't Be a Sea Squirt) - This is not necessarily about trauma, but about how the brain and the body are interconnected. The more we understand about how a person needs to be viewed as an entire entity, the better we can meet that person where they are. Plus, it's just a really fascinating book.
- Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love by Robert Karen - If you want to understand trauma experienced by adopted children, you also need to understand attachment theory, since the severing (or complete lack) of attachment is so often one of the first traumatizing events. This book is pretty comprehensive. I'll warn you, it can also be a slog at some parts, but afterwards you will have a pretty thorough understanding of the basics of attachment theory.
- Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio R. Damasio - A book and an author that you will see on many bibliographies of other brain books. It has some interesting insights into the how the brain works, and if you are totally obsessed with brains, this would be a good one to read. You will reach the point, if you read enough brain theory, though, where you will not rejoice at the name Phineas Gage (the guy who had the spike go through his head) or at reading about the marshmallow experiment... again.
Theory is great, but what do you do with it? How do you parent a child who is affected by past trauma?
- The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn Purvis -- I'm going to commit what is akin to trauma parent apostasy here, and admit that while this is the number one go-to book on parenting traumatized children, it's not my favorite. I find it hard to get through, even though it is short, and I don't find it's information readily accessible. It wasn't until I saw Karyn Purvis' videos on connected parenting that I totally got it. It is the very rare case where I find the information more accessible in a video format than a written format. There are plenty of people who really like the book, though, so if you haven't read it (or anything about connected parenting and the effects of trauma) you should start with it. But, if you don't really connect with the book (sorry for the pun), then don't despair, keep reading. Do seek out her videos. The search term I gave you up above will turn them up right away. Also, this is helpful information for any parent with a child who has difficulty; the child does not need to be adopted for the parent to gain insight and help.
- Brain-Based Parenting: The Neuroscience of Caregiving for Healthy Attachment by Daniel A. Hughes - I found this to be a very helpful book and does a good job of explaining connected parenting. It is not specifically directed at adoptive parenting, so could be more useful to a broader audience. Be forewarned, if you are at the beginning of your journey from consequence-based parenting and have not read much theory, this book will annoy you. A lot. You will find it at complete odds to what you are used to. This does not make it bad, or a book you shouldn't read, but be prepared for some significant cognitive dissonance.
- Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children With Severe Behaviors by Heather T. Forbes and Bryan Post
- No-Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegal and Tina Payne Bryson
- Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Daniel J. Siegal and Mary Hartzell
- The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegal and Tina Payne Bryson - These four books are all written from a connected parenting model and are useful in learning to relate in a new way with a difficult or traumatized child. If you have a difficult past yourself, then Parenting from the Inside Out is probably worth your while to read.
Related issues. The tricky thing about trauma is that its presenting behaviors can masquerade as other conditions. The behavior is real, but the cause is different. An example is ADHD. The hyperactivity and hypervigilance are caused by the trauma, so that things such as medications which do work with true ADHD don't touch the trauma-induced variety. Trauma invade every area of a child's life, so there are a lot of related issues. These next books are a collection of some really interesting and useful books that address some of these less-obvious realities of living with trauma.
- The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene - This book is a game changer for anyone raising a child whose frustration point is somewhere around negative one. The child doesn't necessarily need to be an exploder for this book to be helpful and useful. I would strongly suggest any prospective adoptive parent read this book ahead of meeting their new child. You don't know if your child will be explosive, but you will be at least a little bit prepared. At its heart, this book is actually about a lack of executive function, which is why I believe that the next book I will discuss should be sold as a boxed set with it.
- Executive Function and Child Development by Marcie Yeager and Daniel Yeager - (I wrote about this book on Executive Function, Trauma, and Play) - This is such a fantastically useful book. It gives the practical how-to to The Explosive Child's theory. I would strongly suggest reading both books together.
- The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Play: Brain-Building Interventions for Emotional Well-Being by Theresa A. Kestly - (I wrote about this on The Need to Play) - Since many of the techniques the Yeagers recommend in the above book are play based, that leads us to this little gem. Here it is: the brain science behind why play is so important to a developing child and how play can help a traumatized child heal. There is a lot of brain theory in here which is explained very well. Well of my favorites.
- Attaching through Love, Hugs, and Play: Simple Strategies to Help Build Connections with Your Child by Deborah D. Gray - If you don't feel totally comfortable with playing with your child or if this is an area which is a challenge for you, get a hold of this book. There are many concrete examples of ways to play with and engage your child to develop a close and nurturing relationship which will aid in healing.
- The Boy Who Would be a Helicopter: The Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom by Vivian Gussin Paley - ( I wrote about this on Story Telling) - I love Ms. Paley. She has amazing knack at meeting children exactly where they are and helping them to move forward. I have no idea why the little boy who wanted to be a helicopter behaved as he did. What I do know is that Ms. Paly gives us a beautiful picture of connecting with a child and then drawing that child out in a patient and thoughtful way. Stories have power.
- Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn - This book was written a while ago and was never written as a handbook on raising traumatized children. What is interesting, though, is his case against consequence-based parenting in general, even in a healthy child population. If something is not great for emotionally healthy children, then it can be devastating for hurt ones. Another book which will bump hard against many people's assumptions about parenting and working with children.
- The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Todd Rose - (I wrote about this on An Autodidact's Fan Letter) - Once again, this is a tangentially related book, but one I think is extremely important. If our children who are affected by trauma have one thing is common it's that their brain is jagged. What I mean by that is their consistency, strengths, and weaknesses are all over the board. We live in a society which wants everything to be standardized and our children are not. For a child having a hard time at life in general, this expectation makes it even more difficult. This is a book to read if only to expose your own unacknowledged expectations about how things should be.
Finally, some narrative stories about living with trauma.
- The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker - (I wrote about this on Read This Book) - This is a work of fiction, and young adult fiction at that. Yet, I think this is the single best representation of what a child coming out of trauma and placed in a healthy home experiences. The author does such a fantastic job of explaining why the reactions we think would make sense are not what we see and why that is.
- God, Are You Nice or Mean? Trusting God... After the Orphanage by Debra Delulio Jones - (I wrote about this on The Book I was Looking For) - This is a non-fiction, first person account of a mother's journey to parent and love and to help heal her traumatized, adopted son. So much of this book resonated with our own experience. Plus, it has a happy ending.
- The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce Perry. I read this so long ago, but parts have definitely stayed with me. It is both heart-wrenching and hopeful to read about these mistreated children and their path to healing.
And one more.
- Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom - Heather T. Forbes - First I want to say, I have never read this book. But, yet it makes my list because I have seen it recommended by people whose opinion I value as being extremely helpful in dealing with schools and teachers. Many people suggest buying copies for your child's teacher and principal and whoever else works with or has influence over your child in a school setting. If your child is struggling in school, it would definitely be worth looking into.