Any hurtful or traumatic experience can leave a damaging impact on us for our lifetime and results could be severe in kids as they are more sensitive and weak. Parenting a child with a traumatic experience can prove to be very challenging and parents need to educate themselves to work with the child and gradually bring him out of his past experience.
Any event or experience is traumatic for a child if it poses a threat to the child or to someone the child loves or is very close to. It also depends on the sensitivity of the child, an experience can be traumatic for one kid while the other can deal with the same event with firmness. Trauma includes:
Abuse; physical, verbal or mental
Neglect by parents or caregivers
Violence between parents
Our brain never lets us forget our traumatic experiences. It remembers through the pattern of sounds, smells, and feelings that we can relate to that experience. Anyone of the sensation can remind the child of the whole event and he may feel that he is experiencing it again. These sensations are called “triggers.” These triggers can arouse the flee or fight behavior in the child.
Associated Disorders With Trauma:
Hyperarousal or being always on guard. It causes trouble concentrating.
Frequent anxiety and a surge of emotions
Controlling behaviors and always wanting things done their way
Oppositional defiant disorder or showing extreme behaviors
Parenting a child who has experienced trauma:
Childhood trauma can have debilitating and lasting effects on children. However, if one follows the following steps, one can easily help a child who has experienced trauma:
- Identify trauma triggers: Sometimes things that you may be doing at home may trigger traumatic reactions in children, which may be known or unknown. Understand what makes your child anxious, what can make him throw a tantrum, and act accordingly. Helping your child heal from existing traumatic experiences is helpful until more healing has occurred.
- Emotional and physical availability: Younger children may be needy, may want more hugs and cuddles. Give them that attention and care, to make them your own. Patience is the key.
- Don't react, only respond: Be careful of how you respond when your child is upset. Lower your voice, be reassuring and honest and acknowledge your child's feelings.
- Avoid physical punishment: This may make a child who has already faced trauma feel even worse. It is best to lower your voice, reassure your child and make them feel safe and protected around you.
- Don't take behavior personally: Don't be judgemental, and allow the child to express himself freely. Be consistent with your praises, when they successfully do so.
- Listen: Don't force your children to talk before they are ready. It is normal to have feelings and reactions, especially if they have a history of abuse.
- Help your child to relax: Slow breathing, listening to calming music and saying positive things help.
- Encourage self-esteem: Help children to master a positive skill, that will help them recover from trauma and increase their resilience.
Helping The Child With Traumatic Experience:
- Learn about the triggers that make your child anxious and avoid or lessen these triggers as much as possible.
- Set up a routine for your child so they know what to expect.
- Try to build the confidence of your child by giving a sense of control and allowing them to make simple choices.
- Treat them like an individual and respect their decisions.
- Some behaviors may seem like manipulative, controlling or disrespectful but remember they are behaving like that because of past experience. Don’t take it personally.
- Try to stay calm to the outbursts to keep things under control.
- Avoid shouting, yelling or showing aggression.
- Never stare or look directly at your child for too long as your child may see this as a threat.
- Stay available and responsive even if the child avoids you and keeps you at a distance
- Avoid physical punishment as much as possible it can cause panic and out-of-control behavior in the child with the traumatic experience.
- Let the child feel his true feelings. Teach him to express his feelings in proper words and don’t forget to praise him for expressing his true feelings.
- Never lose your patience in front of your child. Understand that it is hard for the child with a traumatic experience to trust again and it will surely not happen overnight.
- Be consistent in your efforts and predictable, caring, and patient in behavior so that your child can trust you.
- Educate yourself and don’t hesitate from taking help if you have any concerns or questions.
With the help of proven therapies, patience love and care help your child to adjust to trauma’s effects.