Has your child experienced a traumatic event in their life? Trauma can take on many forms, and can be experienced either directly or indirectly, such as seeing someone else experience a traumatic event. Even if your child has been exposed to trauma firsthand, there are still ways that you can help them heal from the experience.
There is always the potential for a child to experience trauma if they have been exposed to a traumatic event. Don’t just assume they are OK and that it will pass by. If you know that your child has either experienced trauma or witnessed trauma, don’t hesitate to get the help they need.
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) children who have experienced a traumatic event (or events) may:
Be aware of how your child behaves, and take note of comments from teachers, coaches, or other adults who work closely with your child. Don’t just write off behaviors as “bad,” and make an effort to recognize patterns and see the bigger picture.
Along with recognizing the symptoms of trauma, pay attention to how your child interacts with their world. How do they act in front of their peers or adults? Have they talked about the traumatic event with others? Do they create art projects or write essays where they describe the traumatic event?
If your child is old enough to talk, try to listen to your child. Ask them to describe what happened. This may be difficult for the both of you. The NCTSN recommends answering any questions that your child may have in a way that will make sense to them. You can work with your child to develop a vocabulary for expressing their feelings. Set boundaries regarding behavior and be consistent with them.
You don’t have to do this alone. Consult with a therapist trained in trauma therapy and treating post-traumatic stress disorder in children. A therapist can recommend specific strategies for managing behavior, as well as provide an opportunity for the child to process the traumatic event and gain some closure. There are counseling resources in the Rexburg, Idaho area that can assist you.
Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to support your child in this process is simply to love them. Also, make sure that they know they are loved. According to NCTSN, parents can do this by:
Consider the opportunities available in your community, whether it’s in a big city or a smaller community like Rexburg, ID, for your child to have fun and to just be a kid.
It’s never easy coping with trauma, but it can be especially difficult for a child.
Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event can be confusing and frightening. Left untreated, this burden could last into adulthood. On the other hand, caring parents can take steps to help their child heal from their trauma, and to continue on with their lives.