Father comforting his crying little son

Children and Teens perceive scary events differently than adults. What may seem traumatizing to them might be hard for an adult to validate.

Children/teens may feel traumatized if they:

  • are separated from a loved one unexpectedly
  • experience a tumultuous or sudden parental divorce
  • witness domestic violence (even hearing it from another room)
  • are physically, sexually, or emotionally abused
  • experience neglect
  • witness or experience violence in the community
  • witness a caregiver’s drug or alcohol abuse
  • experience a natural disaster
  • experience a sudden move, loss of belongings, or a caregiver suddenly leaves and abandons the child
  • or their life or the life of someone they love is threatened (even hearing about a parent in a car accident can be traumatizing for some children)

If your son/daughter experienced a traumatic event, it is important to recognize the symptoms and the undesired behavior early to avoid reinforcing it.

After a traumatic experience, it is normal for children and teens to have a heightened awareness of the environment around them. They may feel these symptoms or demonstrate the following behaviors:

  • jumpy
  • hyperactive
  • distracted
  • irritable
  • more anxious than usual
  • heart racing
  • racing thoughts
  • anger outbursts, crying spells, meltdowns (their reactions may not match the seriousness of the situation)Teen yelling
  • a sense of hopelessness or helplessness or increased pessimism
  • regression (bedwetting, soiling pants, seeking a former lovie or beloved toy, thumb sucking)
  • clinginess and/or separation anxiety
  • self-isolation
  • sleep problems (sleeping more or less than usual, frequent nighttime wake-ups and/or nightmares, newfound fear of the dark/avoidance of bedtime)
  • refusing school or other activities
  • trouble with transitions
  • inappropriate sexual behaviors

Treatment for symptoms of trauma includes specific lessons on coping skills, relaxation skills, and behavioral management skills that requires close collaboration with the child’s/teen’s parent(s) to ensure they practice their skills at home. We will work together to prepare you and your child/teen to develop a sense of safety and control over their emotions and I will help them process their experience by working up to telling their story. You will be included in this process to help them regain the power over their experience(s), as well as to help you heal the pain you feel for your child.