Four Ways Peer Support Can Help Your Kids Prevent Secondary Traumatic Stress

By Gail Heaton

  1. They have safety in numbers

What is the value of knowing you are not alone with the difficult things you are experiencing and feeling? Priceless. That’s also true for our kids. Let’s face it, our resident children are dealing with some pretty big feelings when it comes to the foster or adopted sibling in their life. Being around others who understand those feelings can give your child that boost to keep going on those days they feel like giving up on ever having a normal life again.

2. They get ideas and tips and can learn from one another.

While you don’t have to be super creative to support your resident child, it sure helps to have a steady source of innovative ideas for those days when your usual methods to help them cope are just not working, or if you are fresh out of ideas. With peer support, your child can get suggestions from kids like them to help them not only feel understood but also learn coping skills that their peers have used successfully. Your kids might also find it easier to talk to someone who isn’t their parent.

3. An understanding and sympathetic ear.

Who doesn’t need to vent, cry, scream or wail when things are not going according to plan? Who else but fellow resident siblings can understand that just because today they say they hate their sibling that they don’t REALLY mean it? Not just anyone is equipped to suspend judgments and allow them to verbally release their frustrations in a safe space, but those who once said it before about their own siblings can. Peer support groups can be filled with those who understand the unique challenges of being the sibling to a child with special needs.

4. A time to get silly and have fun together.

All kids can get caught up in the day to day struggle of life with siblings from trauma backgrounds and lose sight that this foster or adoption life can be FUN, too. We’ve all been there. It’s good for the resident siblings to hear firsthand from others how the harder seasons pass and things get fun again. Sometimes they just need to go have some silliness with the ones who get them, who know their secret struggles and love them anyway.

For more on how peer support can prevent secondary traumatic stress in your resident child, and tips on how to build a group from the ground up, check out our book: In Their Best Interest: Preventing Secondary Trauma in Siblings of Foster and Adopted Children.

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