10 ways to help your child through a traumatic experience - TTS

10 ways to help your child through a traumatic experience

In line with the Child Welfare Information Gateway, Consider the following tips – 

  1. Identify trauma triggers. Something you are doing or saying, or something harmless in your home, may be triggering your child without either of you knowing it. It is important to watch for patterns of behavior and reactions that do not seem too “fit” the situation.
  2. Notice what distracts your child, makes him or her anxious, or results in a tantrum or outburst? Help them avoid situations that trigger traumatic memories but get them professional help to address any negative narrative they have associated with the event.
  3. Make sure you are emotionally and physically available. If you struggle with this, get professional help to connect your physical state and emotions for the sake of personal healing or helping your loved one. Some traumatized children act in ways that keep adults at a distance (whether they mean to or not). This leads to long term emotionally unavailable and being left alone with negative thoughts and feelings.
  4. Provide attention, comfort, and encouragement in ways your child will accept. Younger children may want extra hugs or cuddling; for older youth, this might mean spending time together as a family. Follow their lead and be patient if children seem needy.
  5. Try to respond, don’t react. Your reactions may trigger a child or youth who is already feeling overwhelmed. (Some children are even uncomfortable being looked at directly for too long.) When your child is upset, do what you can to keep them and yourself calm: Lower your voice, acknowledge your child’s feelings, breath, and be reassuring and honest.
  6. Avoid physical punishment. This may make an abused child’s stress or feeling of panic even worse. Parents, set reasonable and consistent limits and expectations and praise the behavior you want to see more of and try to ignore the behaviors you don’t want to see. This informs them how to gain the attention of those they seek to please. If your child is under 8 Parent Child Intervention Therapy (PCIT) is a great intervention to use to help with bonding, learning to punish without corporal punishment, and increase communication skills.
  7. Don’t take behavior personally. Allow the child to feel his or her feelings without judgment. Help them find words and other acceptable ways of expressing feelings and offer praise when these are used. PCIT skills can be very helpful with this.
  8. Listen. Don’t avoid difficult topics or uncomfortable conversations. (But do not force children to talk before they are ready.) Let children know that it’s normal to have many feelings after a traumatic experience. Take their reactions seriously, correct any misinformation about the traumatic event, and reassure them that what happened was not their fault.
  9. Help your child learn to relax. Encourage your child to practice slow breathing, listen to calming music, or say positive things (“I am safe now.”). Be consistent and predictable. Develop a regular routine for meals, play time, and bedtime. Prepare your child in advance for changes or new experiences.
  10. Be patient. Allow some control. Reasonable, age-appropriate choices encourage a child or youth’s sense of having control of his or her own life.

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