How Does Therapy Help Kids Heal After A Trauma
Therapy gives kids a way to safely share their feelings, tell their story, and get support. In therapy, kids learn to talk about what theyve been through. They learn coping and calming skills. They learn to adjust the way they think and feel about the trauma. Slowly, they learn to face things they used to avoid. Therapy helps kids find their own courage and gain confidence.
Child therapy for trauma is called trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy . Therapy includes talk, play, and learning activities that heal trauma.
TF-CBT helps parents too. Its natural for parents to feel upset about what their child has been through. In therapy, parents get the support they need. They get advice on how to help their child at home.
In TF-CBT, parents can play a big role in their childs healing. They are coached to listen in ways that help their child open up, talk, and feel close. They help their child practice coping skills at home. They share in the good feelings as their child makes progress.
Challenges With Executive Function
When kids experience trauma, this affects their memory as well as their attention span. Additionally, they struggle with planning, thinking things through, and other similar executive functions. Aside from the obvious areas where they need assistance like learning to focus and improving memory, kids also need help planning. Not only does this inability to plan effectively impact their schoolwork, but it also impacts their behavior too because they are unable to plan how to communicate their needs and feelings.
Teachers can help cultivate this planning skill be helping students predict the future in the classroom. Not knowing what is coming next is unsettling for these kids and can create a lot of anxiety and acting out. But, if the teacher is clear about what happens next, this gives the student a sense of comfort and control over his environment because it has become more predictable. Traumatized kids also need help talking themselves through difficult or challenging situations. So, this is an area where teachers can model this skill for them.
Can The Death Of A Child Cause Ptsd
Experiencing the death of a child can cause a surviving parent to develop PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Surviving the traumatic death of a child means witnessing or suffering through one of your childrens unexpected, sudden, or violent death.
These traumatic experiences sometimes lead to the development of PTSD. Anyone can develop it, and this diagnosis doesnt signal that a person is mentally or emotionally weak or unstable. Adults suffering the death of a child have an especially heightened vulnerability for developing PTSD. The violent death of a child, death by suicide, drug overdose, or other unexpected or violent death can create ongoing emotional responses for months and years.
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Remain Neutral And Not Judgmental
If your student does share what he has experienced, try not to be judgmental. It is especially harmful to develop a belief that what he experienced is not that bad. Remember, it is not what you think about the situation that matters, but instead how the child feels that matters. Likely, the situation he experienced made him feel vulnerable, scared and out of control. Remind yourself that it’s the child’s perception that really matters. What’s more, many kids will minimize what they went through due to embarrassment and fear of what will happen if someone knows the truth.
How To Help Children Ages 2
At this age, although children are making big developmental advances, they still depend on parents to nurture them. As with babies, they typically respond to situations according tohow parents react. If you are calm and confident, your child will feel more secure. If you act anxious or overwhelmed, your child may feel unsafe.
Typical reactions of children ages 2 to 5:
- Talking repeatedly about the event or pretending to play the event
- Tantrums or irritable outbursts
- Increased fearfulnessoften of the dark, monsters, or being alone
- Increased sensitivity to sounds like thunder, wind, and other loud noises
- Disturbances in eating, sleeping and toileting
- Believing that the disaster can be undone
- Excessive clinging to caregivers and trouble separating
- Reverting to early behavior like baby talk, bed-wetting and thumb-sucking
What you can do:
How to help kids ages 2 to 5 cope with the death of a loved one:
- Speak to them at their level. Use similar experiences to help children understand, such as the death of a pet or changes in flowers in the garden.
- Provide simple explanations. For example, When someone dies, we cant see them anymore but we can still look at them in pictures and remember them.
- Reassure your children. They might feel what happened is their fault, somehow let them know it is not.
- Expect repeated questions. That is how young children process information.
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What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder In Children
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem. It can affect people of all ages. A child with PTSD keeps having scary thoughts and memories of a past event. He or she finds the event terrifying, either physically or emotionally.
The symptoms of PTSD may start soon after a stressful event. Or they may not happen for 6 months or longer. Some children with PTSD have long-term effects. They may feel emotionally numb for a very long time. PTSD in children often becomes a long-term problem.
PTSD may be accompanied by:
Over Time Most Children Return To Their Prior Levels Of Functioning
The majority of children and adolescents manifest resilience in the aftermath of traumatic experiences. This is especially true of single-incident exposure. Youths who have been exposed to multiple traumas, have a past history of anxiety problems, or have experienced family adversity are likely to be at higher risk of showing symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Despite exposure to traumatic events and experiencing short-term distress, most children and adolescents return to their previous levels of functioning after several weeks or months and resume a normal developmental course. This resilience typically results in a reduction in both psychological distress and physiological arousal.
Research has provided evidence about predictors of trauma recovery, although there are no perfect predictors. Recovery can be impeded by individual and family factors, the severity of ongoing life stressors, community stress, prior trauma exposure, psychiatric comorbidities, and ongoing safety concerns. Also, poverty and racism can make this recovery much more difficult. Caretakers are affected by childrens exposure to trauma, and their responses affect childrens reactions to trauma. On a positive note, individual, family, cultural, and community strengths can facilitate recovery and promote resilience. Social, community, and governmental support networks are critical for recovery, particularly when an entire community is affected, as when natural disasters occur.
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How Is Ptsd Treated
PTSD doesnt usually go away on its own. Getting treatment and help can make all the difference. Mental health providers have the experience to work with patients with PTSD.
Treatment for PTSD can include therapy and/or medicines to help with anxiety, mood problems, and sleep issues.
Therapy for kids with PTSD is called trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy . This type of talk therapy uses talking and learning activities, guided by a mental health therapist.
For younger kids, trauma therapy includes talk, play, drawing, and story activities. A parent or caregiver is almost always there during the therapy. Their support and comfort play a big role in helping their child feel safe and do well.
TF-CBT can help any child who has been through a trauma, not just those who have PTSD. Getting therapy soon after a trauma helps kids cope well.
For teens, PTSD therapy often includes:
- cognitive processing therapy activities: to help with thoughts and feelings about the trauma
- prolonged exposure activities: to help teens lower anxiety and learn to safely face things they avoid after trauma
- eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy : combined cognitive therapy with directed eye movements to reduce the power and pain of the trauma. This helps the brain reprocess memory of the trauma. There are therapists who specialize in this type of trauma therapy.
Impact Of Child Traumatic Stress
The impact of child traumatic stress can last well beyond childhood. In fact, research shows that child trauma survivors are more likely to have:
- Learning problems, including lower grades and more suspensions and expulsions
- Increased use of health services, including mental health services
- Increased involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems
- Long term health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease
Trauma is a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders.
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How Might A Parent’s Ptsd Symptoms Affect His Or Her Children
PTSD includes a range of symptoms that can have an effect on family members. The following are some examples of how certain kinds of PTSD symptoms can affect children.
People who have PTSD often “re-experience” traumatic events through memories or dreams. This can happen quickly and can seem to come out of nowhere. These symptoms often come with strong feelings of grief, guilt, fear, or anger. Sometimes the experience can be so strong that you may think the trauma is happening again. These symptoms can be scary not only for you but also for your children. Children may not understand what is happening or why it is happening. They may worry about their parent or worry that the parent cannot take care of them.
Avoidance and numbing symptoms
Because the re-experiencing symptoms are so upsetting, people with PTSD try not to think about the event. If you have PTSD, you may also try to avoid places and things that remind you of the trauma. Or you may not feel like doing things that used to be fun, like going to the movies or your child’s event. It can also be hard for people with PTSD to have good feelings. You may feel “cut off” from family and children. As a result, children may feel that the parent with PTSD does not care about them.
Learn How To Treat Ptsd In Children
If you suspect that your childs stress and anxiety are going beyond and may actually be PTSD, getting professional help right away is essential. Childhood trauma can have a life-long impact on your child, and the sooner you get help for your child, the better their outcome will be.
If you feel that something is just not right with your child, always get a professionals advice. Seek the counsel of a mental health professional, as well as your childs pediatrician. If your childs intrusive or disturbing thoughts or anxiety impact their daily life, or if they start expressing any thoughts of self-harm, immediate medical attention is necessary.
The best way to treat PTSD in children is to teach them skills to address their symptoms and then learn how to avoid triggers in the future. Therapy and sometimes medication is used to treat this disorder, and both require the careful oversight of a mental health professional.
If the PTSD is severe and the child is expressing suicidal thoughts, you may want to consider a residential treatment facility. This is the most intensive option, but it provides an excellent, supportive environment to help your child focus on their mental health and stability.
Each child is unique and will approach a traumatic event differently. As the parent, you know your child best, and you have the best insight into how to approach them as they deal with their stress and discomfort.
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Maintain A Safe Environment
If a parent can manage to limit chaos in their childs environment, this provides a safe space they can grow. It doesn’t necessarily mean that parents should completely avoid some situations, but they should know how to deal with them. Rather than arguing with a partner in the presence of a child, adults may take the arguments in a private place. This will help to limit the child’s exposure to tense situations.
You can also help your child by informing them who they would contact in emergencies. You can also provide an open space where they can disclose their thoughts and feelings without judgment. They must have a prior understanding of their parents unconditional support during traumatic events. This will likely increase the sharing of their challenges and experiences.
Symptoms Of Ptsd In Children
Trauma can lead to a wide range of thought, mood, and behavioral symptoms. Many of the symptoms of PTSD in adults also appear in children, adolescents, and teens.
It can take some time after an event for the effects of trauma to show up. If they develop soon after an event, the symptoms usually improve after 3 months. Sometimes, the effects might not show up for 6 months or more after the trauma happened.
For a diagnosis of PTSD, the child will have experienced disruptive symptoms for at least 1 month. Common symptoms of PTSD in children include:
- flashbacks or feeling as if the trauma is happening again
- seeming nervous, jittery, or extra alert, also known as hypervigilance
- seeming out of it, detached, or in a daze
- unwanted thoughts or memories about the traumatic event
- trouble sleeping, including nightmares
- avoidance of people, places, things, or situations that are reminders of the traumatic event
- problems in school
- no longer enjoying activities they used to
- intense outbursts of anger or sadness
- unexplained physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach pain
- worries about death or getting hurt
- regressive behaviors, such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
Adolescents or teens might turn to substance use, such as alcohol or drugs, to deal with the trauma and its effects.
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Developing Practical Predictors Of Psychological Outcomes
The limited research to date assessing risk for ongoing distress after trauma exposure has identified some indicators of risk but no reliable way to gauge whether a given child will recover on his or her own or will require some intervention. More research is needed in this area, including the development of well-validated risk assessment tools that can be feasibly implemented in diverse settings and for diverse traumatic events and that will help identify the high-risk youth and families who are in need of clinical services.
Actions For This Page
- Children and adults will recover from distressing or frightening experiences given time and support.
- How you deal with the crisis yourself and how you react to your childs feelings and behaviour will have an enormous impact on their ability to cope.
- Tell your child the facts about what happened, in a way that is appropriate for their level of development and using language they can understand.
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What Does Ptsd After The Death Of A Child Look Or Feel Like
There are common signs that you may have PTSD after the death of a child, like fear and panic entering into certain situations, along with flashbacks of the childs death.
A childs death by accident, suicide, violence, and drug overdose is more challenging to cope with because of the stigma attached to the manner of death, making it hard to open up to others about your grief.
PTSD can trigger substance and alcohol abuse and is another marked result of PTSD for some sufferers. Some parents will turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain.
Some of the following factors predict the onset of PTSD after the death of a child and how well a parent copes with loss:
- The childs cause of death
- The parents gender
- The availability of social support
- Their grieving style
How To Support National Ptsd Awareness Month:
1) Get involved by organizing events.
If there is an organization in your community that supports those with PTSD, volunteer during June. Bring in a speaker who has expertise on the issue. Help raise funds for the charity. Do anything you can to help the organization promote awareness and raise the issues profile in your city or town.
2)Post support on social media.
PTSD Awareness Month is represented by the color teal. Take pictures wearing a teal ribbon, or t-shirt, and post them to social media with an appropriate hashtag. Letting others know you support this cause is a great way to raise awareness.
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How Does Trauma Affect Kids
Trauma affects a childs sense of safety and trust. After a trauma, kids can still feel tense or scared. Some feel alone, sad, angry, or guilty. They may think they are to blame for what happened to them. For some kids, theres a loss of self-esteem or dignity. For some, theres deep grief.
Trauma also can affect a childs mood, behavior, or sleep. Some kids become depressed. They might act grumpy or seem sad. Some get in trouble more often, or do worse in school. Some have new fears, or trouble sleeping. Some have upsetting memories, called flashbacks. Often, kids avoid things that remind them of what theyve been through.
After a trauma, some kids share how they feel. But other kids keep things to themselves. They may try to hide how they feel, or try to push it out of their minds. They may think others expect them to get over it. Some just dont have words for their feelings. For any of these reasons, a parent might not know what their child is going through.
How To Cope With Ptsd After The Death Of A Child
Traumatic events like the unexpected death of a child can profoundly impact a parent who’s suffered through this type of loss. Coping after a child’s traumatic death can have life-long effects and may even develop into a mental health condition known as PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jump ahead to these sections:
PTSD is a complex mental health disorder that carries a lot of stigmas. But, in reality, it makes up a natural part of the grieving process for many people. You should never be ashamed of experiencing PTSD. The disorder is now widely recognized and isn’t anything anyone should ever have to keep hidden.
Anyone can develop PTSD after witnessing or suffering through extreme or life-threatening events. Whether from natural causes or otherwise, the death of a child can have long-term effects on a surviving parent’s mental health.
Learning to cope with PTSD may be challenging, but there’s help out there to help you regain control of the recurring thoughts and emotions caused by this trauma.