Many people have an idealized vision of what childhood should be: Carefree, happy days spent playing with friends, riding bikes, running through sprinklers, and racing to finish an ice cream cone before it melts and makes a sticky mess. Childhood should be about creating lasting memories children can someday share with their own children and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, childhood is sometimes marred by trauma that results from tragedy – such as seeing a violent crime or being abused or victimized – or even major life changes, like moving to a new city or dealing with the divorce of parents.
Trauma is very real, and parents can be proactive in helping their child deal with emotional trauma. The first step in that process is to know how to identify the common symptoms of childhood trauma.
Common Symptoms of a Childhood Trauma
Children may exhibit age-related symptoms of trauma. For example, a toddler, who cannot yet verbalize his feelings, may become afraid of strangers, may regress in toilet training habits, and may become much quieter. A teenager, on the other hand, may experience flashbacks of the traumatic event, suffer from depression, or even engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol, to deaden their feelings.
Some common symptoms that children of all ages may exhibit, however, include:
· A change in behavior. A child who has suffered trauma may withdraw or become angry, frustrated, sad, or anxious. Children, who normally do well in school, may start having difficulty in school, including getting poorer grades.
· Regression. Children, who have otherwise developed a sense of independence, may revert to such behaviors as becoming clingy with a parent, sucking their thumb, or wetting the bed.
· Difficulty sleeping. A child may be unable to fall asleep or to stay asleep. Some children may want to sleep with their parents or may have nightmares when they do fall asleep.
· A change in appetite. Some children deal with trauma by overeating while other children simply stop eating or eat significantly less than usual.
Consult with your child’s pediatrician if you suspect he may be suffering from trauma. Professional help, may help your child overcome trauma. You, too, can play a large role in your child’s recovery.
Tips for Helping Your Child Overcome Trauma
One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is seeing our children suffering or hurt and being unable to just stop it with a hug and a kiss. You are the biggest influence in your child’s life, and he is going to need your support to deal with and eventually overcome the trauma.
Take care of yourself. Dealing with trauma can take a toll on everyone involved and you aren’t immune. Before you can help your child, you have to make sure you are okay. If you are having difficulty dealing with the traumatic situation, talk with friends or family or consider talking with a professional.
Don’t project your feelings onto your child. Children tend to follow their parents’ lead. If you are angry and fearful after whatever traumatic event your child experienced, your child will likely become angry and fearful. As difficult as it may be, remain calm when talking with your child about the traumatic event and its aftermath.
Listen. If your child can verbalize his thought and feelings, encourage him to talk to you. When he talks, really listen and acknowledge his thoughts and feelings. Don’t dismiss your child by making such comments as “It’s no big deal. Everything is going to be fine.” Acknowledge the traumatic experience and how your child felt at the time and how your child feels now.
Offer reassurance. Remember when you were a kid and something scared you – maybe a loud thunderstorm in the middle of the night – and you ran to your parents to be reassured that everything was going to be okay? Your child needs you to reassure him that he is going to be okay.
Follow a routine. Children need to know what to expect, especially after dealing with a traumatic experience. Your family may not be able to follow the same routine as before the event, create a new routine to provide your child with consistency. Routine and consistency will help your child regain a sense of safety and security.
Moving House: Story for Traumatic Emotional Past Experiences will help open dialogue between you and your child. This powerful Ebook helps children understand that it is possible to leave the bad events in the past by focusing on the positive in life. And a story that every parent and child needs is “The Bubble”: for emotional protection and safety.