After the holidays, it’s normal for families to start resolutions to get healthy again–especially after Christmas and New Year’s, where treats pop up everywhere, and cold weather means bundling up under the blankets and watching a movie or two. Once you’re ready to start fresh, staying active is a common and helpful resolution.
For adoptive families there’s a reason why staying active shouldn’t just be a new year’s goal. An active lifestyle has proven to help heal trauma in adopted children.
What is Trauma? Trauma disrupts your body’s equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyper-arousal and fear. Essentially, your nervous system gets “stuck”. Trauma can be caused by a lot of different situations like a one-time event like abuse, ongoing relentless stress from living in an area that isn’t safe or where food and water isn’t plentiful, and the loss of a significant relationship like a birth parent. Often children who were adopted come from one or more of those types of situations.
Children who have experienced trauma at any age will need help from their adoptive family getting “unstuck” from their trauma, no matter what age they experienced it.
How Does Exercise Help? Studies have shown that exercise and movement can help your nervous system become “unstuck.” Exercise that is rhythmic and engages both your arms and legs—such as walking, running, swimming, basketball, martial arts, or even dancing—works best. This is a great activity for families to do together, and even helps with bonding. The more you can make exercise a family routine and habit the more you can help your child begin to heal from their childhood trauma.
Dance party anyone?
*please note that exercise should not be your only approach to addressing adoption trauma with your child(ren). If you have concerns about adoption trauma you should work with a mental health professional to make a plan that is tailored to your child’s unique experience and needs.