No matter how hard we try to protect each child, there is always the likelihood that at some point they will experience trauma. Perhaps a trusted adult hurt them, they lost a loved one unexpectedly, or they experienced a natural disaster. If you have children that you foster or have adopted, they may have undergone trauma before they joined your family. Whatever your family’s situation, it is important that we learn how to help when life gets hard. Here are some ways to help your child after they have experienced trauma.
1. Listen to them
Give your child plenty of opportunities to open up about how they are feeling, and what they are thinking. Sometimes, they may not want to talk about what happened, and that is okay. It is still important to listen, so they know they can always count on you. Other times, it may flow out of them as fast as they can talk. While it is always hard to hear about a child you love being hurt, it is crucial they know it is safe to talk to you. Be understanding, and try to avoid looking or acting surprised, as that may prevent them from coming to you in the future. Know that if they say they don’t remember, they might be telling the truth. Young children often lack clear memories of the trauma that happened to them. Instead, they remember things through certain senses, which can make it harder for them to pin down what exactly happened.
2. Be aware of and watch for symptoms
Different symptoms will reveal themselves in children of different ages, so it is important to educate yourself on the types of symptoms your child may display. Take the time to read up on what sort of symptoms may reveal themselves in attitudes and behaviors. When your child exhibits some normal, age-appropriate symptoms, take the time to help them process. Talk to them about how you can help them feel safe. If they are older, encourage them to build healthy relationships with people who can support them.
3. Know when to ask for help
If your child continues to show severe symptoms after experiencing trauma, know that it is normal and healthy to ask for professional help. Lead by example, and look for resources in your area for parenting a child with trauma. There may be support groups, group therapy options, and parent resources that occur side-by-side with group therapy or support groups for children. Check your health insurance to see if therapy may be covered for you and your child, individually and together. If there is little or no coverage, try looking for organizations that offer therapy on a sliding scale to find an affordable option near you.
Now, you are better prepared to parent your child through whatever trauma life may bring.