No parent wants to see their child suffer, but sometimes life can be challenging, and traumatic experiences are inevitable. If your child has recently gone through a traumatic event, whether it be a divorce, the death of a loved one, or something else, it’s important to be there for them and help them cope in healthy ways. Here are five things you can do to help your child cope with trauma:
Acknowledge their feelings
As a parent, you can play an important role in helping them cope by acknowledging their feelings and offering support. It can be tempting to downplay their feelings or tell them they shouldn’t feel that way, but that will only make them feel worse. Let them know that feeling sad, angry, and afraid is okay. Listen to them and don’t try to fix their problems; just being there for them can make a world of difference. Offer reassurance that they are safe now and that you will help protect them from anything that might hurt them. Acknowledging their feelings can help your child feel validated and understood.
Create a safe space for them
Children who have experienced trauma often feel unsafe and unprotected. Creating a safe space for your child, both literally and figuratively, is essential. If they need a physical space to retreat to when they’re feeling overwhelmed, make sure they have one. A bedroom or playroom where they can relax and feel safe can be very helpful. If they need to talk about their feelings, create an environment where they feel comfortable without feeling judged or misunderstood.
Encourage healthy coping mechanisms
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with trauma, so it’s essential to encourage the former while discouraging the latter. Some healthy coping mechanisms include emdr therapy from a qualified therapist, talking about their experiences with someone they trust, writing about their feelings in a journal, participating in therapeutic activities like art or music therapy, and getting regular exercise. On the other hand, some unhealthy coping mechanisms include turning to drugs or alcohol, lashing out at others, self-harm, and excessive internet use. If you notice your child engaging in unhealthy behaviours, it’s crucial to intervene and help them find healthier alternatives.
Help them make sense of what happened
Talking about the event that led to the trauma can be challenging, but it can also help make sense of what happened and begin the healing process. Please help your child process what happened in developmentally-appropriate ways according to their age and maturity level. This may involve looking at pictures from the event if applicable, telling stories about the event, or simply talking about how they’re feeling now. The goal is not to relive the trauma again but to help them understand and make peace with what happened so they can move on.
Seek professional help if needed
If your child is struggling more than expected or exhibiting signs of PTSD such as flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and avoidance behaviours, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a therapist or other mental health professional specializing in helping children deal with trauma. They will be able to provide additional support and guidance on how best to help your child heal both physically and emotionally from experience.
No one ever wants their child to go through a traumatic experience, but unfortunately, it’s sometimes unavoidable. If your child has recently gone through something traumatising, it’s important to be there for them and help them cope in healthy ways. By acknowledging their feelings non-judgmentally, creating a safe space for them both literally and figuratively, and encouraging healthy coping mechanisms, you can help your child begin healing after experiencing trauma.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.