Guiding Your Child Through Post-Traumatic Stress


A guest post from the team that created They offer precious advice to help parents of children who suffered a trauma. 

When a person is in the midst of a traumatic experience, there’s really no time to think clearly. Our primary responses to trauma are instinctual. When our brains perceive danger, they automatically activate energy in extraordinary amounts. This is similar to the adrenaline rush a parent experiences when lifting a car up off of a child. This rush triggers physical changes that are designed to help us protect those we love or defend ourselves.

Traumatic stress occurs when the energy isn’t discharged. The energy doesn’t simply disappear. It remains trapped inside, which creates the potential for post-trauma symptoms. When it comes to children, these symptoms can be overwhelming because they don’t have the psychological skills needed to handle the situations properly. The younger the children are, the fewer resources they will have for protecting themselves. This usually results in pent-up energy that’s known as post-traumatic stress.

Supporting Your Child Through Post-Traumatic Stress

The first step to minimizing trauma in your child is remembering to keep yourself calm. Remember that children are resilient. So, they can bounce back with the right support. Think of yourself as a Band-Aid. You can’t actually heal the wound, but you can protect it until it heals itself. Here are the basic steps to take to be the Band-Aid you child so desperately needs:

  • Reassure Your Child – Make sure that your child knows that any feelings of pain, fear, rage, anger and sadness are normal after a trauma. Give your child comfort by reassuring him/her that their pain is temporary. They won’t last forever because the wounds will heal in time. Allowing children to heal in their own time will actually help them move through their negative and sad feelings quite quickly. Allow them to experience authentic feelings, and accept and respect those feelings.

  • Allow Your Child to “Release” – Oftentimes, most children will react to traumatic events the way they believe their parents expect them to. They put on a brave face, ignoring the true feelings they have inside. This form of denial can lead to serious trauma symptoms that could have been avoided had they faced their feelings head-on. Children need to be encouraged to talk about the traumatic event, as well as the feelings it led to.

  • Validate Your Child’s Pain – Post traumatic stress can lead to both emotional pain and physical pain. Children need to know that the pain they feel is natural, and healthy. Your child will benefit greatly when he/she knows there’s a calm adult around who will accept their pain, knows how to deal with it and has the ability to keep the child safe. Reassure your child that you’ll do whatever it takes to support them through the crisis.

  • Get Professional Help – Every child handles trauma differently. Some children bounce back quickly, while others can’t seem to get past the painful memories. If you’ve tried your best, but your child is still exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress, it may be time to seek professional help. Therapy can help both you and your child understand the feelings behind the traumatic event, how to deal with them. In time, your child can overcome stress and learn to be emotionally healthy again.

Help Your Child Heal

The most important thing you need to remember is that your child is watching your every move. Don’t try to pretend that nothing’s wrong. This will only cause the child to suppress feelings that need to be expressed to prevent trauma symptoms, which can lead to teen problems. If your child needs help coping with post-traumatic stress, has the resources you need to get help for your child now.

Image by martinak15 / flickr.