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Balancing Change and Stability: A Guide to Family Transitions After Trauma

White parents with their Latino adult son in rain gear in the stands at a soccer game

The Dual Nature of Change in Healing Trauma

Change is often a double-edged sword, particularly for children and adults who have experienced trauma. On one hand, change can be a catalyst for healing, providing new opportunities and environments that foster growth and stability. On the other hand, change can be a source of immense fear and anxiety, especially for those with a history of trauma, where the unknown can trigger past memories of instability and danger. I am living this duality right now.

Our Personal Story: Navigating a Dream and a Dilemma

As a family dedicated to healing, education, and support through Trauma Drama University, we've faced our own challenges and triumphs. Recently, we stumbled upon a dream house, the kind we always envisioned for our next chapter in life. It seemed like the perfect place to downsize and find peace. However, this new beginning also brought a complex dilemma: our adult son, who is healing from reactive attachment disorder (RAD) due to early neglect by his foster mom, now faces the daunting choice of moving with us or starting his own independent life. My timeline and his timeline are not currently coinciding, and I'm feeling immense mom-guilt.

Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder and the Fear of Change

Reactive attachment disorder is a severe condition often resulting from early childhood trauma, particularly from inconsistent or neglectful caregiving. Children with RAD struggle to form healthy attachments, and as they grow into adulthood, they often continue to face challenges in trusting others and adapting to new environments. I know this, and yet I have to remind myself constantly.

Dr. Bruce Perry, a renowned expert in childhood trauma, emphasizes that consistency and predictability are crucial for individuals with a trauma background. Any change, even positive ones, can feel threatening because it disrupts the safety net of familiarity. For our son, the prospect of moving means leaving behind the known and facing the uncertainties of a new setting. I'm excited, and yet, worried about how he'll get through this.

Expert Advice on Navigating FAMILY TRANSITIONS with a Traumatized Child:

  1. Communication is Key: Dr. Perry advises open and honest communication. Discuss the potential move with your child or young adult well in advance, addressing their fears and concerns. Involve them in the decision-making process as much as possible to give them a sense of control.

  2. Gradual Transition: If possible, introduce changes gradually. Visit the new house together several times before the actual move. Allow them to explore the area and become familiar with the new environment at their own pace.

  3. Maintain Routines: Consistency in daily routines provides a sense of stability. Try to keep key elements of their routine the same, even in a new setting. This could include maintaining similar meal times, rituals, and other daily activities.

  4. Provide Reassurance: Continuously reassure your young person of their importance and security within the family. Make it clear that your support and love are unwavering, regardless of the change in surroundings.

  5. Seek Professional Support: Consider involving a therapist who specializes in trauma and attachment disorders. They can offer tailored strategies and support for both your child and the family as a whole.

Practical Steps for Parents

  • Create a Safe Space: Ensure that your new home has a designated area where your kid feels safe and in control. This could be their bedroom, a corner of the living room, or any space they can personalize.

  • Empower with Choices: Give your young person some control over the move. Let them choose how to set up their new room, what items to take, and what new activities they might want to explore in the new area.

  • Stay Connected: If your child decides to start out on their own, establish a plan for regular check-ins and visits. Ensure they know they are always welcome and that your home is a safe haven whenever they need it.

Moving Forward Together

Our journey with our son through the lens of trauma has taught us that while change can be frightening, it also holds the potential for profound healing. By approaching this transition with empathy, patience, and support, we hope to help him find stability and confidence, whether he decides to join us in our dream house or carve out his own path. I hope he knows how much we love him.

Families who have successfully navigated such transitions emphasize the importance of maintaining open lines of communication and being patient with the process. Healing is not linear, but with love and support, it is always possible.

For those facing similar challenges, remember: you are not alone. Resources and support are available, and with time and effort, you and your young adult can find peace and stability together in this new phase of life.


Need more support? Contact us and let us know what you need... we are striving to improve our services every day so that we can provide you with the best support we can. Shoot an email to Professor Gina:


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