Kris’ Corner – Taking on Renovations with Trauma in the Home

January 31, 2024

So, as you may, or may not know, we have had a lot of changes and upheaval in our household in the past year. We moved to a new community, one son graduated from college in the spring and then in the fall he moved overseas for two years, the other older son is back in college, we experienced the death of a grandparent.

Lots of things. So, clearly, it seemed like a good idea to go ahead and do some fairly significant renovations on the house.

Now just to be clear, I’m totally joking that it seemed like a good time. But, the renovations needed to be done so since we were already in a period of transition, we decided to go for it.

Clearly, any renovation is hard, regardless of what is being done and when it happens. Even with only one or two adults and no children living in a home, it would be difficult. And with each “variable”, it gets exponentially more difficult. I only have one kid currently in the home…but then trauma just brings an extra layer of “stuff” to the mix.

And here’s the why: my kiddo really needs to know what’s happening ahead of time. But if you’ve ever done any sort of remodeling work, you know that you can’t always rely on the schedule you’re given. Sure, they’ll be there at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning…or it might be 11 or later. Or they might not show up at all. Yes, they’ll be done by Friday…or it might be another week of work. The list goes on, obviously; there are many possibilities for what can happen in home renovations.

And since we homeschool, and he’s home all day, I have to give my son the schedule for the day, each day (what’s happening, who is going to be at the house or where we have to go, etc…), each morning. And sometimes he will ask for the schedule the night before as well. If he was gone during the day, this would obviously help this situation…although he would want to know what *should* be done each day and would have words for me about it if it wasn’t. Because even though he knows logically that I am not responsible for other people’s work, trauma often trumps logic and the downstairs brain can hijack him before we can have a rational conversation.

Point being: let me just encourage you that if you’re going to go down the path of home renovations, just know that your child is probably going to need a lot of reassurance, comforting, connection with you, and some grace.

It doesn’t mean there isn’t structure, that doesn’t mean there aren’t boundaries, and all of the typical things that we, as parents, use to provide as much control as we can. But when there’s a lot more lack of structure than usual, due to circumstances outside of our control (during home renovations, for instance), grace is kind of where we have to camp. As with most advice I give you, I don’t do it lightly. Of course our home renovation project (which ended up being three projects when it was all said and done…yay for living in an older home!) was estimated to take a week and a half. It ended up being about three and a half weeks.

The other piece of this, at least for us, is that in addition to trauma, sometimes children from hard places have an additional diagnosis which adds to the complexity of the situation. My son, for example, struggles with ADHD…so you can imagine how entertaining it was for him when there was a revolving door of new and different people in the house; clearly on those days it was difficult to get him to focus.

As a quick aside, for us, that’s where the beauty of homeschooling (see my previous post for more on making the right schooling decision for your child) kicked in: He loves to learn new things and definitely is a visual, as well as and auditory, learner so if you show him something once and explain it once, he’s probably going to know how to do it. Thankfully, most of the contractors were amazing with him and let him watch them work. Some would even answer his unending questions or let him help by getting them the tools they needed, etc.

So while not a typical school day when the workers were here, I could view his observation of all these contractors as PART of a school day. I have to take a win where I can. He’s learning something new, it just might not be the traditional school day…and again that’s OK. Takes us back to that idea of grace, right?

I say all that to say this: I don’t know that I have too much wisdom to impart for a time like this, because a home renovation is probably not going to be great or easy or simple or anything of that sort. But, you CAN get through it, especially when you are able to step back and realize that your child doesn’t want to be upset or thrown off by this anymore than you do. And if you can stay regulated, you can share your calm with them which will hopefully restore or maintain THEIR calm…which is always the goal, right?

Godspeed and happy renovating!