Children experience trauma – defined as “an intense event that threatens or causes harm, either physical or emotional” – in a number of different ways. A personal experience, as a victim or even as a witness, with natural disaster, violence, or abuse is the most common cause of childhood trauma.
Experiences like this can cause the child to feel betrayed and insecure, often leading to Child Traumatic Stress and intense emotional reactions to events that remind them of past experiences. And the children are not the only ones affected as parents and caregivers dealing with child trauma without the proper tools can experience “compassion fatigue,” which limits their ability to give adequate care.
In fact, Foster In Texas provides training on trauma-informed care to help educate foster parents because virtually all of the children we serve have faced trauma when separated from their families. Children struggling with trauma react differently based on age, culture, and personality, but some common signs include the following:
- Startling easily, having difficultly calming down
- Thumb sucking, fear of the dark, clinging to caregivers (younger children)
- Tantrums, aggression, or fighting
- Quiet and withdrawn, wanting to be alone
- Talking constantly about the traumatic event, or denying it happened • Changes in eating or sleeping
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches
If you suspect, or know your child has experienced trauma, though, there are several things parents can do to help them cope:
- Help your child feel safe
- Encourage children to talk about their feelings
- Provide extra attention, comfort, and encouragement
- Teach children to relax
- Be aware of your own response to trauma
- Remember that everyone heals differently from trauma
- Find help when needed
As National Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close, these tips serve as a reminder that recovering from abuse and trauma is an ongoing battle. We’ve taken the past few weeks to focus on child abuse more frequently than we usually do, but knowledge and a willingness to ask for help are critical to not only preventing abuse, but recovering as well.
*This tip sheet was summarized from a chapter in the 2014 Prevention Resource Guide. You can download this tip sheet here, or call 800.394.3366.
Image credit: Thinkstock, Olesiabilkei