One of our specialties at Family Christian Counseling Center is working with children who have experienced trauma. I just finished reading an article titled “Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What Parents can Do” by the National Institute of Mental Health (a branch of the National Institute of Health). The article has many good suggestions for parents about what they can do and when to seek professional help.
What is Trauma?
The article defines psychological trauma as: “an emotionally painful, shocking, stressful, and sometimes life-threatening experience”. Reactions to trauma are quite varied, they can be immediate or delayed in time, they can differ in how severe they are and differ widely in behavior and response.
Responses to Trauma
The article next divides up common responses to trauma into 3 different age groups: a) children under 5, b) children age 6 to 11, and c) adolescents 12-17. I encourage you to read through these sections if you believe your child might have experienced trauma.
What Parents can do
Some of the suggestions that the National Institute of Mental Health gives to parents are to let your child know:
- You love them
- It was not their fault
- You will help them through this
- If is ok to feel upset
One of the “Do’s” that is mentioned in this article is to let them draw pictures about the event or their feelings. The therapists at FCCC often find that art is one of the best ways for children and adolescents to express what is internal and troubling. In regards to “what not to do” the Institute suggests to not make them discuss the event before they are ready. If you are not sure when your child is ready the therapists at the Center can help you in that decision.
When to seek Professional Help?
According to the National Institute of Health “most children recover within a few weeks of a traumatic experience, while some may need longer. If after a month in a safe environment children are not able to perform normal routines or new behavioral or emotional problems develop, then contact a health professional.” At the end of this article it lists symptoms that the Institute says may require immediate attention from a mental health professional, this list includes:
- Racing heart and sweating
- Being easily startled
- Being emotionally numb
- Being very sad or depressed
- Thoughts or actions to end one’s life
We have therapists at the Center who have devoted their professional life to helping traumatized children find healing and wholeness. If you believe your child needs our services we would be honored to talk with you. Please call 602-325-1233. If you would like to read more about the Centers thoughts on childhood trauma click the link.