Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is just as difficult for the parent to navigate. 

When your child has experienced trauma, it affects the whole family unit. To think that trauma only impacts the child is not fair to say. When you have a traumatized child, it can often isolate the family because who would understand what you are going through. Or at least, that is how it feels. The truth is that with such a heavy focus on the child, your relationship with your parents, friends, or spouse will need additional support. If you have never heard of it before, secondary trauma can impact you from watching your child struggle.

It has been shown that even when you are learning about what your child is going through, this can create a trauma trigger for you. For individuals, they have already experienced trauma in their own lives, so when your child experiences trauma it can bring up issues in your own life. As a parent, you want to fully and completely understand what your child has been through in order to help them, but it isn’t easy. You are impacted too. As a result, this is what we call secondary trauma.

Mom sitting in chair with kids behind her. If you are parenting a kid with big emotions and trauma, likely you're impacted too. As you help your child heal from childhood trauma, don't ignore your secondary trauma. Talk with a trauma therapist near me soon! Boise, ID 83702 
 | Atlanta, GA 30303 | Virginia Beach, VA 23450 | Saint Paul, MI

Is it compassion fatigue, burnout, or secondary trauma?

Sometimes we may struggle to identify what it is we are experiencing and these three things can be confused for one another. Compassion fatigue is defined as physical and mental exhaustion. Or even the loss of empathy or compassion for others. This results from the demand of being empathic and helpful to those who are suffering. Burnout on the other hand is an ongoing interpersonal work-related distress. Three components of it are inefficiency, exhaustion, and cynicism. If you are unsure of what you are dealing with talking with a mental health professional can help!


Tips to Identify Secondary Trauma

With secondary trauma, hearing or witnessing the suffered from a child who is already going through a traumatic event can trigger trauma. You may be doubtful or have people invalidate this, but the truth is that even though you were not directly impacted, you can still experience trauma. Here are some common signs of secondary trauma:

  • unwanted and painful trauma-related memories, dreams, and/or flashbacks.
  • distressing psychological or physical reactions to reminders of the trauma.
  • Avoidance of memories, thoughts, emotions, people/places/things, discussions, situations)
  • Irritability 
  • angry outbursts
  • possibly engaging in self-destructive
  • reckless behaviors
  • difficulty relaxing
  • concentration difficulties
  • sleep problems
  • exaggerated startle response 
Mom doing yoga, baby in the background. In order to address healing trauma in children, we must also address our secondary trauma as parentings. Learn more about the effects of trauma and talk with a skilled trauma therapist near me soon! Minneapolis, MI | Washington, DC 20012 | 20001 | Houston, TX 77002 | San Antonio, TX 24334

It’s Time for You To Get Support Too!

In order to be an effective parent or caregiver, it’s important to get your own support. The best cure for secondary trauma is prevention. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Taking care of a traumatized child will drain you, so make sure you are caring for yourself. 

Here are some tips for you to help yourself:

  • Be honest about your expectations for your child and your relationship. 
  • Having realistic expectations about parenting a child with a history of trauma increases the chances for a healthy relationship.
  • Celebrate small victories. Take note of the improvements your child has made. 
  • Don’t take your child’s difficulties personally.
  • Take care of yourself ( physical, emotional, and spiritual health)
  • Focus on your own healing. If you have experienced trauma.
  • Get Support!

A note to parents about secondary trauma

I know that you are doing your best to take care of your child. No parent wants to see their child struggle. Even when you are doing everything to care for your child, if you are not taking care of yourself, it isn’t going to have much of an impact. Our children are watching us, even when we don’t think about it. It’s time to prioritize your mental, health just as you are prioritizing your child.

Mom on computer with daughter sitting on desk. Its ok to admit you have secondary trauma from parenting a kid healing from childhood trauma. You need support too. Learn about the effects of trauma and get the support you need.  Gulfport, MI 39501
Chicago, IL  60601 | 60602 | 60603 | 60604

Need to Find a Trauma Therapist Near Me Who Understands Big Emotions in Kids and Secondary Trauma

It’s important to prioritize your mental health as your work with your child through trauma. If you need support in parenting and helping heal a traumatized child, It all begins with finding a trauma therapist today! Trauma is real and can be difficult to understand. Start the process with the help of a trauma therapist. Find A Trauma Therapist by clicking here

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Publish Date

June 17, 2022

About the Author

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C is an integrative trauma therapist and owner of a group practice, the Baltimore Annapolis Center for Integrative Healing. She is also the host of Therapy Chat and Trauma Chat podcasts and the founder of the Trauma Therapist Network, a website for learning information about trauma and finding resources and help for trauma.

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