Backview of Sad Child waiting on a Glass Window

How to Help Your Child After a Traumatic Experience

No matter how hard parents and caretakers try, they can’t protect a child 24/7. No one can be kept completely safe from traumatic events. When a child experiences trauma, however, it can be particularly confusing and long-lasting. What constitutes a traumatic event can vary widely and is mostly in the eye of the beholder. This can include abuse, natural disasters, loss of a loved one, and more.

Unfortunately, if your child has had to endure such a scenario, they will need some professional intervention. But they will also look to you for support, comfort, and guidance. How can you, as a parent, step up to this challenge?

How Trauma Affects Kids

Backview of Sad Child waiting on a Glass Window A powerful first step is for parents and caretakers to gain an understanding of how trauma typically works. Kids who are trauma survivors often display symptoms like:

  • Chronic worrying and fear
  • Shutting down emotionally or becoming very needy.
  • Anger issues
  • Self-blame
  • Grief
  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Problems at school with behavior and academic performance.
  • In older kids, there can be risky behaviors and attempts at self-harm.

It’s heartbreaking to picture any child going through any of this, but for their parents, it feels like a puzzle they can’t solve. So, again, parents must do a deep dive into self-education to better understand what their child is feeling and how to be supportive.

How to Help Your Child After a Traumatic

Experience

Of course, your choices will be shaped by your child’s age, temperament, and personality. Even so, any of the following suggestions can be adapted to your precise situation.

Safety

Obviously, you want to take all reasonable steps to keep them safe. But post-trauma, your child will also just need to feel safe. An excellent step in this direction is the creation of soothing rhythms and routines. These can involve eating, playtime, meals, and outside trips. Trauma feels chaotic, so routines can be reassuring.

Another form of safety involves monitoring your child’s exposure to notifications and devices. Trauma survivors can be easily triggered by news stories. Depending on their age, do what you can to reduce the chances of that happening.

Calm

Maintain a calm home. Yes, this can get tricky if you have other children who were not impacted by the traumatic event but still aim to reduce friction and sudden surprises. Teach them relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and do everything you can to not let them feel your own anxiety. Get the help you need, but lead by example by choosing calmness when with the kids.

Learn

Every child will cope differently, so don’t expect your kid to fully conform to the research you’ve done on trauma. Listen to them and pay close attention. Validate their emotions by acknowledging them without judgment.

Fun

Trauma can be nightmarish, but it does not have to mark the end of laughter and play. Promote a sense of normalcy by watching funny videos, playing games, taking walks, and maintaining other healthy, upbeat distractions.

Talk

This is a delicate balance. You want to let them know you’re ready to talk and listen any time, but you don’t want to pressure them. Sometimes, a child won’t realize they need to talk until they start talking. It’s not about you having the “right thing” to say. Your child just wants to be reminded that they are loved and heard. Be affectionate, patient, and grateful.

You Do Not Have to Do Any of This Alone

No parent is going to have all the answers. If your child has undergone trauma, reach out to get them — and you — the professional help you need and deserve. Contact us to learn more about  trauma or child therapy.

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