How Families Can Help
When children have been through a traumatic experience, it can shake up their sense of safety and confidence in themselves and their futures. Some children can be overcome by fear, anger or sadness. Some children can develop behavior problems; have nightmares; become too afraid to sleep alone; have school problems; begin arguing and fighting; withdraw from others; or abuse food, drugs or alcohol. With love, support and listening, many children experience temporary problems that go away after a few weeks or months.
However, there are times when children and families need professional help to cope with the trauma and the difficult symptoms. When seeking help, it is important to look for licensed child therapists who are trained and experienced in treating traumatized children.
It is critical that families:
- listen supportively to what your child has to say.
- together, find ways that help your child regain his or her feelings of safety.
- build up your foundation of support. The more supported a parent feels, the more the parent can help his or her child.
- tune into your child. If he or she is not showing how he or she is affected by the traumatic event, ask him or her. Not all children tell adults when they are experiencing emotional distress or worries. Some children don’t want to worry their families while some can’t find the words to communicate what they are feeling.
- seek assistance if you or your child’s emotional and behavioral reactions are interfering in your abilities to succeed with school or work, to maintain relationships, to take care of yourselves, or to enjoy life. Make sure you look for licensed child therapists who are trained and experienced in treating traumatized children.
It is imperative that families:
- don’t pretend as if nothing had happened. Problems won’t go way even if they are ignored.
- don’t avoid discussing what happened or cut off the conversation when your child tries to talk about it.
- don’t have your child take on the primary role of your healer and supporter. While you may support each other through healing, adults need to turn to other adults for the majority of their support. The Cullen Center therapists can support you and your child.
- don’t make promises that you cannot keep.
- don’t assume that every therapist knows how to treat traumatized children.
- don’t lose hope. If you do, so might your child. The Cullen Center can help.