Supporting Our Kids through Trauma

As parents, the job we take most seriously is protecting our children. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, our children and teens sometimes experience traumatic events. Something is considered to be traumatic if it is a scary or dangerous situation that overwhelms a child or teen’s ability to cope.  Traumatic events can include a wide range of experiences including physical or sexual abuse, death of a loved one, violence in the community, car accident, animal attack, natural disasters, and more.

Although we can’t always prevent traumatic events, there is a lot we can do as parents to help our children through these experiences and lessen their impacts:

1. Reassure your child or teen that they are safe and that everyone is doing everything they can to keep them safe.
2. Maintain normal routines, schedules, and activities as much as possible. There is a lot of comfort and safety in predictability./
3. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and make sure they know you or another trusted adult are always available to talk with them.
4. Share information about the situation on an age-appropriate level. Answer childrens’ questions but don’t assume they have the same concerns that an adult might have.
5. At the same time, protect them from information that they don’t need to know or that may be too distressing. Avoid talking about your own fears or anxieties in front of your children or teens as they pick up on worries easily.
6. If there is news coverage of the event, limit their exposure to this. This is particularly important for toddlers and young children, who may see video replays and think the event is happening again. For teenagers, try to limit exposure to social media reports of the situation and avoid reading comments on online news sites, as they may be rude, hurtful, or judgmental.
7. Share your own thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. The more you are able to deal with the situation in a healthy way, the more you will be able to guide you child or teen to do the same.

\The good news is that most children and teens recover from trauma naturally, but be aware of these signs that your child is having difficulty coping:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Re-experiencing the event through nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or play
  • Avoidance of anything reminding them of the event
  • Change in appetite
  • Numbing or apparent lack of emotion about the event
  • Excessive clinginess
  • Persistent worry that something else bad will happen

If after about a month your child or teen is still struggling with some of these symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help. Cognitive Behavior Institute has a number of providers who are experienced in treating trauma in children and teens. Treatment works and recovery is possible! If you feel like your child may need to seek professional help, please reach out to us at 724-609-5002