How to Help Your Child Release Trauma

emotional trauma

Traumatic events seem to be running rampant for our children over the past few years. We’ve seen catastrophic events and violence take its toll on our children, teens and young adults.

Life feels very different for them when they are the target of violence or when they see someone get injured. It can be a life-altering experience for adults but for children, it changes how they perceive the world around them. It can also greatly affect their personalities and even their development.

After a traumatic event occurs, there are several ways parents can help their children recover.  Here are four tips from PsychCentral.com:

1. Learn to identify the kinds of trauma children and young adults face.

Events such as sexual abuse, experiencing a natural disaster or involvement in a serious car accident, commonly come to mind when thinking about trauma. But not all instances of trauma are as well-defined.

Exposure to violence: Witnessing it on television or at school. Even though the child did not experience the violence firsthand, the event may have negatively affected the child, making him or her feel unsafe or fearing something bad will happen to him or her.

Parental separation or divorce: The disruption to their normal routine can feel extremely traumatic to younger children due to new living situations, new schools etc.  Difficulties with academics, intimate relationship problems, peer conflicts and job loss emerge in the lives of young adults facing these traumatic events.

Keep in mind that there is a wide range of events that can be considered traumatic to the young adult that can leave them feeling confused about their own personal identity and life goals. Their feelings should always be validated even if you, their parent, feel like they are overreacting to even the smallest thing.

2. Parents can spot a traumatic reaction.

When a traumatic event takes place in our lives, we all have an initial and sometimes lasting response. First, the brain perceives the threat and puts the body on red alert. Then, our defense mode takes place in the central nervous system which affects mental, physical and emotional functions. When these things happen, it can be hard to sleep; eat; breathe; focus; study; work; socialize; verbalize; engage in activities or calm down.

If you notice your child feeling jumpy; on edge; mean; scared; worried; sad; and needy for attention, they may be having a hard time processing something traumatic. Switch gears and give your child positive attention instead of focusing on punishment. The best thing you can do is spend time together doing some activity that your child has chosen. This will allow them to regain a feeling of security and safety after experiencing trauma.

3. Parents can be there to listen.

Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all recovery plan for trauma that works for everyone. Some people do well with talking it out while for others it simply does not work. When it comes to children or young adults, expressing trauma in words is very difficult. They often do not possess the vocabulary or have any practice in sharing these difficult emotions.

Listening is the key here. Let your child know you are there to listen in case they want to talk. Be willing to wait but express to them that you want to know what is going on whenever they feel like opening up to you.

4. Parents can model healthy ways to cope.

As parents we need to be role models in this aspect as well. Healthy coping skills are learned, so if you practice these on a regular basis, chances are your child will pick up on your behavior and model theirs after you. Teach them how to deal with every day stress and when you see your child struggling after a traumatic event, help them use these tools to soothe and release.

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