What is Trauma? (adapted from BOOST http://www.boostforkids.org/)
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (www.nctsnet.org) defines trauma as an event or series of events that involve fear or threat. Traumatic events can include: sexual abuse or sexual assault, physical abuse, witnessing domestic violence or community violence, natural disasters including a hurricane or flood, as well as the sudden and violent death of a loved one.
Common Reactions To Trauma
It is important to remember that your child is unique, and a number of factors will influence the range of reactions your child may or may not experience. Children may react to trauma in a number of different ways including the following:
♦ Physical symptoms (this may include difficulty sleeping, eating, headaches, stomach aches)
♦ Difficulty concentrating
♦ Staying away from places or things that remind them of the traumatic event
♦ Intense fear and worrying
♦ Intense sadness
♦ Remembering the traumatic event when seeing,hearing, or smelling something that reminds the child or youth about their experience
♦ Isolating oneself from family or friends
♦ Younger children may express their fears through play, or re-enact elements of the traumatic through play
All of the above are normal responses to distressing or difficult experiences. These reactions become a concern when they begin to impact the daily functioning of children and youth. It is important to remember that no two children are alike and a child may or may not experience any or all of the above.
How To Support Your Child Following A Traumatic Event
After a traumatic event occurs, it is common for children as well as parents to have a difficult time coping. It is important to remember that parents play a critical role in helping their children to recover from the traumatic event. Here are some suggestions on ways to support your child:
♦ Let your child know that you understand it will take time for them to feel better. Try to reassure your child that things can and will improve.
♦ A parent’s response to their child’s experience can impact how children cope. Know that your child may notice a sudden change in your mood. Let your child know what you are reacting too. Just as it is important for children to get support following a traumatic event, it is equally important for parents/caregivers to do the same.
♦ Children and youth cope with trauma in different ways. Try to be patient and understanding of what your child may need to cope. Some children will want to talk openly about their feelings while others would prefer to avoid discussing the trauma.
♦ As a family, you can then offer each other emotional support, through physical comfort, understanding and reassurance. Re-establishing predictable and consistent routines within the family, soothing night time practices, while reassuring your child that you love and support them is important.
♦ It is common for children to blame themselves following a traumatic event. Reassure your child that he or she is not responsible for the traumatic event.
Resources For Parents/Caregivers
Kathyrn Hagas Brohl & Joyce Potter Case
When Your Child Has Been Molested: A Parent’s Guide To Healing and Recovery
Cynthia Monahon Children and Trauma:
A Parents Guide To Helping Children Heal
Sex Spelled Out For Parents
Tori Cavanaugh Johnson Helping Children with Sexual Behaviour Problems:
A Guidebook For Parents and Substitute Caregivers.
Sam Gitchel & Lorri Foster Let’s Talk About Sex:
A Guide for Kids 9 to 12 and their Parents.
Resources For Teens
Monique Lang Healing From Post-Traumatic Stress:
A workbook For Recovery
Babette Rothschild The Body Remembers:
The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment
Cohen et al. Managing Stress Through Art:
Drawing From the Center
Aphrodite Matsakis Trust After Trauma:
A Guide to Relationships for Survivors and Those Who Love Them
Leave Out Violence Youth The Courage To Change:
A Teen Survival Guide
Falling Apart and Coming Together Again in the Teen Years
Earl Hipp Help for the Hard Times:
Getting Through Loss
Kris Gowen Sexual Decisions:
The Ultimate Teen Guide
Harborview Centre for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress Website: http://depts.washington.edu/hcsats/
National Child Traumatic Stress Network Website: www.nctsnet.org