For parents and caregivers, seeing your child go through a traumatic experience can be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do.
You want to help them, but you might not know what to say or do.
As you walk this delicate path with your child, here are some tips for how best to support them:
When Children Experience Trauma
When children experience trauma, they may be unable to cope with the emotions or thoughts that arise because of their experiences. Unlike ordinary life hardships, trauma is sudden, serious, and unpredictable. These are events or experiences that undermine a child’s sense of safety in the world and make them live with the fear that anything bad could happen at any time.
This can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety, which may in turn lead them to have difficulty sleeping or eating. When we sense trauma or danger the center of our brain called the amygdala activates and sends out alarms that prepare you for defense, this is called the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
Short term, this is fine, the feelings of anxiety, shock, anger, or aggression fade as the crisis you’re facing disappears. Traumatic events, however, develop into long-term emotional disturbances that manifest as extreme anxiety, anger, sadness survivor’s guilt, disassociation, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Children may also show signs of physically such as bedwetting and stomachache. Children who experienced trauma can also have trouble making friends and playing with others, as well as becoming withdrawn or aggressive towards loved ones.
Trauma Can Result in Mental Illness
One of the biggest problems with trauma is that it can become a lifelong problem. Trauma can result in mental illness, including depression and anxiety disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often diagnosed after people experience a traumatic event like war, sexual assault, or other violent crimes.
Around 16% of boys and 19% of girls suffer from PTSD, major depressive episodes, or substance abuse because of traumatic experiences.
The symptoms of PTSD include nightmares and flashbacks that take place when the person isn’t under duress. These symptoms are often debilitating and may cause someone to avoid situations they think will trigger their memories of the trauma they experienced.
Teens Need Time to Heal
Trauma is different for everyone. How long it takes for your teen to heal from trauma depends on a variety of factors, including the type and severity of the trauma, their age when it occurred, and their ability to access support systems.
They’re going to be emotional, accept this and cut them some slack.
Traumas can be anything from childhood bullying or sexual assault to something as simple as losing a loved one or experiencing discrimination based on their race or gender identity.
Even if you’re not sure what happened exactly (if your teen won’t tell you), there are some warning signs that they may need help processing their feelings and finding ways to cope with their experiences:
- Your teen seems depressed or sad most of the time without any apparent reason
- They have trouble sleeping at night and are irritable during the day
- They suddenly start avoiding situations where they feel unsafe (like going out in public)
Make It Easy to Communicate
You should be able to talk openly with your child and ask them about their feelings, as well as other topics. If you don’t know what questions to ask, here are some ideas:
- How was school today?
- Tell me about your day.
- What did you do at recess today?
- What made you smile today?
If they say that they didn’t have a good day or if they are upset about something, they need to share this information with you so that you can work together to make things better. Asking questions like these will help keep communication open and allow parents and children alike an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and connection in times of need.
Help them process and regain a sense of control
Give your teen the space to talk about their experience, even if they don’t want to engage in the conversation. You might say things like, “I’m here for you. I know it’s hard but let me help.” Or “I understand that you’re upset; I’d be too.” Let them know that you are willing to listen when they are ready to talk about what happened.
Be careful not to force your own ideas on your teen; instead, encourage them to come up with solutions and make plans on their own. Help guide them through the cause and effect and understand what happened and why. Consider limiting their exposure to mainstream media for a time as they heal.
Don’t assume that just because something worked for someone else’s child that it will also work for yours—each individual needs his or her own approach when dealing with trauma symptoms.
When to seek out the professionals
If you are concerned that your teen is experiencing trauma, it’s important to seek out the help of professionals.
You may want to consider speaking with a school counselor or psychologist, your pediatrician or family doctor, or even a psychiatrist. The professional will be able to inform you of any resources in the area and offer treatment options if needed. Check out https://basepointacademy.com/ for help today.
As such, it’s crucial for parents to pay close attention when it comes down to recognizing signs of childhood trauma so they can begin addressing them early on before things get worse!
We need to be more aware of the trauma that teenagers are experiencing.
It is a serious problem and one that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Hopefully, this article provided some insight into how parents can help their children recover from trauma and avoid mental illness in the future. If you feel like your teenager is struggling with any of these issues, please seek out professionals who can help both of you through this difficult time.