Whether you are a parent, caretaker, mentor, or support system to a child, helping children with trauma is no easy feat. Each and every person goes through troublesome times in life, including children. Children entering adulthood or navigating the difficult transition to becoming a teenager can face even more hardship, especially if they have suffered through trauma in the past. In this article, we will explore how to best help children with trauma and when you should seek professional help for your youth. (1)
Listen First, Talk Second
If and when a child opens up to you about past trauma, be sure to listen first and talk second. When a child opens up to a parent or mentor, this is a true sign of trust, something that will be crucial as you navigate the next steps in supporting them. Try to avoid interrupting them, coaching them before hearing the full story, or asking follow-up questions before you have had a chance to process the information yourself.
Accept That You Might Not Know How to Help
As a parent or mentor to a child, it is only natural to want to feel as though you are a “fixer” and will be able to patch up any worry they are having. Keep in mind that children with trauma deal with setbacks, worry, anxiety, and hardship very differently than those who have not experienced trauma. Accept that you might not know the best way to help them now, but you will be a critical asset in getting them the help they need.
Seek Professional Help Early
Feeling as though you know your child well enough to help support them without the need for professional help is a natural feeling parents and guardians will experience. However, this can be dangerous, especially for children suffering from trauma. Seek professional help early to avoid causing further complications in your child’s emotional state.
Find Healthy Coping Strategies
Finding healthy coping strategies can be a great way to help a child process trauma and also be a bonding activity for both of you. Try different calming techniques and see what sticks – what might work for one child is not necessarily going to work for another! Activities such as coloring, doing a puzzle, spending time outside biking or walking, visiting a local bakery to enjoy a sweet treat, or coordinating a playdate can all be healthy examples of ways to cope.
Trauma dumping occurs when someone decides to unload their trauma onto another person in an intense or even aggressive way. Avoid sharing your own struggles at first when speaking to a child, wait for a professional to help guide you through things such as group therapy. (2)
Keep Private Matters Private
While posting online, reaching out to friends or family, and publicly sharing stories of your child’s trauma might be a way in which you cope, it can be extremely detrimental to your child’s recovery process. Children confess to those they trust and admire. By sharing their stories and struggles widely, you are abusing your power and can encourage your child to start keeping secrets or avoid asking for help.
We hope this article helped you better understand how to help support a child in need who is suffering from trauma. Remember, it is always in your best interest to seek professional help early and often. To connect with a professional who can help support both you and your child on the road to recovery, visit the Neurobehavioral Associates website and make an appointment today.