How Working with a Therapist Can Help Your Child Heal From Trauma
Divorce, abuse, bullying, and an unexpected loss of a loved one can be overwhelmingly stressful for children. Too often, these sorts of encounters go unaddressed and start to impact kids of any age emotionally, physically, and mentally. If severe enough, these experiences can become traumatizing, as they can disrupt every aspect of a child’s life. Trauma Therapy for Children
As a parent or caregiver, you may feel confused, scared, or unsure of approaching the situation. Despite the challenges, working with a child therapist can help build resilience and move forward. The quicker you intervene, the more you can prevent your child from experiencing the continuous effects of trauma as an adult.
To understand how working with a therapist can help your child heal, it’s essential to acknowledge what trauma looks like.
Trauma Presentations in Children
Many children are exposed to potentially traumatizing events at one point in their lives. While most experience some level of distress following the event, the majority can return to a healthy functioning state.
Since trauma appears differently in each child, and there are a variety of ways they can react. Some of the responses may be influenced by:
- How long the trauma occurred for (hours, days, years)
- The severity of the traumatic event (experiencing or witnessing extreme physical, emotional, or sexual abuse)
- Availability of support or resources
Symptoms of Trauma
Although there’s a specific list of criteria required for a proper diagnosis of PTSD, there are various things that parents, caregivers, and other adults can look for.
If you’ve noticed any of the following behaviors or symptoms that seem out of the norm for your child, it may be worth talking with a trained professional who could help.
- May have a change in typical behavior (increased aggression, etc.)
- Have a tough time expressing emotions
- They may be confused or worried as to why they feel the way they do
- Frequent accidents after being potty trained (day or night)
- Reenact the trauma during play
- Become attached towards a caregiver or adult
- Stop talking or socializing
Showing unusual behaviors or going through a traumatizing experience doesn’t always mean your child has PTSD, but it’s important to be aware of possible warning signs.
How Working with A Child Trauma Therapist Can Help
By engaging in trauma-focused treatment with a trained therapist, your child can learn more about what he/she is experiencing, address the concerns, and develop healthier coping ways.
The following includes a few of the many benefits of working with a therapist after trauma. Trauma Therapy for Children
Working with a trained therapist provides a space for you and your child to understand the connection between the trauma and current symptoms. Caregivers are also given an opportunity to learn how to manage these behavioral changes at home effectively and how to better communicate with their children.
This can be extremely validating, as it normalizes their experiences and lets them know that other kids who’ve experienced similar things, can feel ashamed or scared.
Re-Establish A Sense of Safety
A traumatic encounter is a result of a violation of safety. This can include a physical, emotional, or psychological sense of security. Through various activities and discussions, your therapist will help develop their emotional, psychological, and physical senses of safety.
Depending on your unique experience, your therapist will guide you on how to stay safe in future situations to avoid retraumatization or future abuse. You may also discuss how to maintain and continue with the healing process.
Identify Triggers Trauma Therapy for Children
Once a trusting relationship starts to develop, your therapist will help your child understand and recognize which situations, memories, or emotions may be associated with reminders of the trauma.
Children may suddenly behave or act out emotionally. These behaviors are typically inappropriate for a situation but are actually responses to trauma reminders. Also known as triggers, trauma reminders can be confusing or frightening for both you and your child. Understanding them provides an opportunity to change responses to them.
Develop Healthy Coping Skills
You and your child will discover healthy skills and improve coping strategies to the reminders and emotions associated with the traumatic event. For example, if your child experiences frequent nightmares, they can use deep breathing or other mindfulness strategies.
Being able to describe negative or uncomfortable emotions can reduce the number of destructive reactions to them or other ways your child may be expressing them. They’ll learn how to use feeling words to describe what’s going on, such as “I’m feeling really scared.”
The therapist helps you and your child in managing emotions, specifically the emotions related to the abuse. For example, children are taught how to identify and express their emotions and engage in self-soothing exercises when experiencing intense emotions, like fear or anger.
These strategies are introduced early on to help your child stabilize their emotions and behavior. Learning these skills supports your child’s resiliency and ability to bounce back from their traumatic experience.
Many types of trauma-informed treatments exist today. With the number of options available, your therapist can help identify which intervention is right for your child, as treatment is meant to meet both your child’s and your family’s unique needs.
Trauma-focused or trauma-informed treatments may look different based on age, trauma experience, setting, or location.
But by simply starting the healing process, your child can cultivate better relationships with siblings, teachers, and peers and learn a set of skills that can last a lifetime.
With the help of an empathic, confidential, and non-judgmental therapist, your child can increase self-esteem and learn crucial emotional life skills that can help him or her navigate adolescence and the world beyond.
At Washington Psychological Wellness, our child/adolescent counselors and therapists practice an integrative, holistic approach to healing, taking into account the mental, physical, and emotional health of your child and their physical, interpersonal, and familial well-being. We consider each child as unique and encourage parental involvement in every step of treatment.