At some point in our lives, most of us will have to deal with a traumatic event. Trauma can be difficult for anyone to process, but it can be especially difficult for children. Unfortunately, being exposed to trauma is a way of life for many kids, and takes place in many forms: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence or gun violence. These experiences shape the way a child interacts with the world, and if left untreated, can lead to serious problems now, and in the future.

At Mercy Home, 86 percent of our children have suffered some form of abuse. Repeated exposure to trauma impacts people differently, but studies have shown that childhood trauma can lead to impulse control disorders. Impulsive behavior causes problems for children in their day to day lives, and as time goes on, their consequences become larger.

“We have some kids who are involved in high-risk behaviors,” said Dennis Bourne, an Admissions Clinician at Mercy Home. “Some kids who are doing things like jumping off bridges. We had one kid who was climbing around garages in the neighborhood.”

Dennis spends 2-4 hours with a child and their family when they first arrive at Mercy Home to get a sense of their background and how they might benefit from our care. Impulsive behavior manifests itself in different forms, but Dennis has seen a common pattern in his five years at Mercy Home.

“The majority of the impulsive behavior I’m seeing is impulsive aggression,” Dennis said.

It’s crucial to identify trauma and impulse-control disorders as early as possible. As time goes on, the consequences resulting from these negative behaviors begin to escalate.

“For our kids, it’s failing a grade, it’s problems in their family relationships,” Dennis explained. “As you get older – it’s legal consequences. It’s losing a job and losing your home and becoming homeless. It’s having a family and then losing your family. Or, becoming abusive and perpetuating that cycle of trauma onto your kids.”

“For our kids, it’s failing a grade, it’s problems in their family relationships,” Dennis explained. “As you get older – it’s legal consequences. It’s losing a job and losing your home and becoming homeless. It’s having a family and then losing your family. Or, becoming abusive and perpetuating that cycle of trauma onto your kids.”

Using our therapeutic model, the Mercy Model, we help our kids work through their trauma and behavioral issues on a number of levels.

One of the most important aspects in treating impulsive behavior is to provide a consistent and predictable environment. Once they are at Mercy Home, our kids know what they can expect in their daily lives and become acclimated to a regular schedule.

As they settle into a safe and stable home, we help our kids understand the emotions they are feeling and identify their impulsive tendencies through talk therapy. Once they recognize their impulsive behaviors, they can then learn to control them.

Yet talk therapy isn’t always the solution for healing trauma.

“For a number of our kids, a lot of their trauma is rooted in their body,” Dennis said. “We have kids who have been exposed to drugs, we have kids who have been abandoned at young ages, we have kids who have been abused at young ages – and this is before they have conscious memories. So a lot of this trauma is sort of locked in their bodies. Dealing with it requires things that don’t necessarily engage their minds as much as it engages their bodies.”

“For a number of our kids, a lot of their trauma is rooted in their body,” Dennis said. “We have kids who have been exposed to drugs, we have kids who have been abandoned at young ages, we have kids who have been abused at young ages – and this is before they have conscious memories. So a lot of this trauma is sort of locked in their bodies. Dealing with it requires things that don’t necessarily engage their minds as much as it engages their bodies.”

Some therapeutic practices used to engage our youth physically include yoga, tai chi, dance therapy, and music therapy.

The variety of approaches we use to address trauma helps meet the needs of each individual child. It is thanks to the continued support of our donors that we are able to provide such great care for our kids. Our supporters are helping to break the cycle of trauma that is often passed down from generation to generation.

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