As we talked about in part one of this series, children, especially those who have experienced multiple traumas over the years will be impacted by their body, brain, and nervous system. This can create behaviors that create ruptures in the family dynamic as a result. The behaviors children use may seem excessive to you, but really, they are working to survive or stay safe. The truth is, when trauma is huge or repetitive, the reaction of the child becomes like muscle memory. It grows over time and becomes a second nature response. As caregivers, know that healing from childhood trauma is possible.
Our role is to help our children relearn and reaffirm safety. The stress response your child is encountering is learned and can be unlearned. However, as parental figures, we need to be patient with them. Over time, the brain will learn a more safe response and your child will adjust.
What parents can do to help their children begin healing from trauma?
Recognize the triggers of trauma
Parents, as you begin to help your child heal from trauma, you must understand what trauma triggers are. A trauma trigger is a part of a traumatic event that occurs in similar or different situations. This event reminds the child of the stressor or the fear. Think about it from the 5 senses, touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. You can also consider postures, tone of voice, or even emotions as triggers. Additionally, as your child responds to trauma triggers, know that the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response may show up. While your child may appear to be disrupting the family event, acting aggressive, or throwing a tantrum, this is honest the learned response from the child. It is necessary to display compassion and patience with your child rather than anger with their responses.
Identify Trauma Symptoms by Age
Common signs of Trauma in young children (0-5)
- Delays in growth
- Lower energy levels
- Reenacting traumatic events during play
- Children are clingy to parents
Signs of Trauma in School-Age Children (6-12)
- Struggling to pay attention in school
- Lack of social interaction
- Sadness or depression
- Beginning fights often
- Change in school performance
- Physical symptoms such as stomach ache or headache
- Experiencing behaviors more common in younger children
Common Signs of Trauma in Teens (13-18)
- Constantly talking about the trauma
- Denying trauma
- Refusal to follow rules
- Excessive exhaustion or sleeping less
- Withdrawal from friends
- Substance Use
- Risky behaviors
How to Know If A Therapist is Trauma-Informed and What To Look For?
Consider asking potential providers the following questions:
- Ask About A Therapists Education and Training
- Are they familiar with research about the effects of trauma on children?
- Ask them About their Specific Experiences with children
- How does a child’s trauma history influence your treatment approach?
- What are your specialties?
- How long have you been conducting therapy?
- What is your experience in working with youth who have experienced trauma?
- How do you determine whether a child’s symptoms may be caused by trauma?
- What is your approach to working with youth who have experienced trauma?
- Do you consider yourself a “trauma-informed therapist”? How?
There are many spaces you can get additional support for childhood trauma. To find a provider, visit SAMHSA’s Trauma-Informed Approach and Trauma Specific Interventions webpage, the TFCBT institute page, or visit NCTSN’s Empirically Supported Treatments.
Types of Trauma Therapies for Kids Healing from Childhood Trauma
This is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. This addresses symptoms of trauma and PTSD. This is done by addressing maladaptive and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors of those who have experienced trauma or forms of abuse.
Play therapy is a form of therapy used primarily for children. Children have a unique way of communicating that differs from adults. Many children when experiencing trauma may struggle to process their own emotions or articulate problems to parents or other adults. To the untrained eye, play therapy can appear to be playtime. However, a skilled and trained therapist can use playtime to observe and gain insights into a child’s problems. By doing this, they can help your child explore emotions and deal with unresolved trauma. Play is a powerful way for children to develop new coping mechanisms and work through inappropriate behaviors.
Sand Tray Therapy
The goal of sand tray therapy allows a person to create their own inner world with the use of toys and sand. The scene created acts as a reflection of the person’s own life and allows them the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and gain acceptance of themselves.
Find a Trauma Therapist Who Can Help You Understand How to Begin Healing Childhood Trauma.
Kids are resilient and curious individuals. However, sometimes good kids can be perceived as bad when we don’t realize the roots of behavior come from 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. Even if your child has lived a happy healthy life they can still benefit from trauma-informed parenting. Start the process with the help of a trauma therapist. Find A Trauma Therapist by clicking here