5 Recovery Tips in Helping Children Cope with Trauma.
If we look in the news, social media and in our current world you will see that there’s been a lot of unsettling things taking place in our nation. Even though adults work hard to keep children safe, dangerous events still happen. This danger can come from outside of the family such as natural disaster, car accident, school shootings or community violence) or from within the family, such as domestic violence, divorce, physical or sexual abuse, or an unexpected death of a loved one.
What is a Traumatic Event?
A traumatic event is anything that is upsetting, scary, and dangerous or frightening that has compromised a child or teen’s sense of safety and security in the world. This can come in the form of a threat to a child’s life or bodily threat or witnessing a traumatic event that threatens life or physical security of a loved one is also traumatic.
Children’s and Teen’s Reaction To Trauma.
Children process trauma much differently from the way an adult would process a traumatic event. Children often experience intense, confusing and frightening emotions that follow a traumatic event or natural disaster which is more potent and pronounced in a child or adolescent. Whether they directly experienced the traumatic event or were repeatedly exposed to terrible media images after the fact, this is still traumatic.
Effects of Trauma on Kids and Teens.
· Regression or returning to behaviors common at a younger age such as thumb sucking or bedwetting.
· Cling to parent or caregiver
· Somatic complaints such complaining of physical aches and pains in body
· Flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia
· Substance use
· Irritable/ Disruptive
· Suicidal thoughts/ Self-Injury
While children and adolescents are more vulnerable to being traumatized than adults, with the right support and reassurance, they are also able to recover faster. Using these coping tips below, you can help your child or adolescent regain an emotional balance, restore their trust in the world, and move on from the trauma.
Trauma recovery tip 1: Minimize exposure to media
Children who’ve experienced a traumatic event can often find tons of media coverage to be further traumatizing. Too much exposure to images of a disturbing even such as repeatedly viewing video clips on social media or news sites can create traumatic stress in children or teens who were not directly affected by the event.
· Limit your child’s media exposure to the traumatic event.
· As much as you can, watch news reports of the traumatic event with your child to help them place information in context.
· Avoid exposing your child to graphic images and videos.
Trauma recovery tip 2: Engage your child
It’s not wise to force your child to recover from traumatic stress but you play a major role in the healing process by simply spending time together and talking face to face, free from TV, games or other distractions. Create an environment where your kids feel safe to communicate what they’re feeling and to ask questions.
· Provide your child with ongoing opportunities to talk.
· Acknowledge and validate your child’s concerns.
· Reassure your child.
· Don’t pressure your child into talking.
· Be honest.
· Do “normal” activities with your child.
Trauma recovery tip 3: Encourage physical activity
Physical activity burns off adrenaline, release mood-enhancing endorphins and help your child sleep better at night.
· Find a sport that your child enjoys
· Offer to participate in sports, games or physical activities with your child.
· Encourage your child to go outside.
· Schedule a family outing.
· Take younger children to a playground.
Trauma recovery tip 4: Feed your child a healthy diet
The food your child eat has a tremendous impact on their mood and ability to cope with traumatic stress. Sugary drinks and snacks and processed convenience food can worsen the symptoms of traumatic stress. Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein can help your child better cope with the ups and downs that follow a disturbing experience.
· Focus on overall diet rather than specific foods.
· Limit fried food, sweet desserts, sugary snacks and cereals.
· Be a good role model.
· Cook more meals at home,
· Make mealtimes about more than just food.
Trauma recovery tip 5: Build trust and safety
Trauma changes the way a child sees the world, making it suddenly seem a much more dangerous and frightening place. Your child may find it more difficulty to trust both their environment and the people in it but you can help to rebuild your child’s sense of safety and security.
· Create Routines.
· Minimize stress at home.
· Manage your own stress.
· Speak of the future and make plans.
· Keep promises.
· Remember that children often personalize situations, reassure them and help them put situations into context.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health
If you notice that several weeks have passed and your child is not getting better and symptoms have worsen, you might want to see a professional who specializes in trauma. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I specialize in trauma and I love to work with kids, adolescents and families. Counseling will help your child, teen and family through the recovery process.