As a therapist, there are times when I have to inform a parent that their child has been the victim of a traumatic event. The reactions that come up in the session room can range from angry to completely devastated that their child has been hurt. Also, depending on the trauma, many parents may find themselves in a situation where they are at a complete loss of what to do or even what to say. So many questions come up. How did this happen? Why my child? How can I take away their pain? Will we ever go back to the way things were?
This brings to mind a very important question, how do we help our children recover from trauma? What are some things to keep in mind? Below I’ve written some tips for parents who are struggling with helping their child recover from trauma.
- Don’t blame yourself for the trauma if you are not responsible for it. Many parents will blame themselves for a trauma that was caused by an extended family member or by someone outside of the family. Blaming yourself for what happened is not productive and only makes you sink lower into a depressive state. It is important to put the responsibility for the trauma in the hands of the person or thing that perpetrated it.
- Do not deviate from routine if you can help it. Many times parents’ first instinct when it comes to trauma is to deviate from routine and rules in order to “give the child time to heal.” This does not help. Many children who experience trauma prefer to have things go back to the way that they were before all the trauma occurred. This gives them a sense that things are still “normal” between them and their parents. That doesn’t mean that some rules don’t need to change at all. In fact, some rules may need to change in order to accommodate a change that resulted from the trauma itself. If this happens, then it is important to at least talk to the child who went through the trauma to see what changes might need to made in order to help them feel safe.
- Continue to see your child as your child. Many parents tend to be afraid of how to communicate with their child as well as how to treat them after they have been victimized. At the end of the day, your child is still your child. This means that the very core of who they are has not changed. They are still the same little one that you love and that is a part of you. Keep this in mind as you help them recover. They may not be the same as they were before because of the trauma, but they can grow stronger as result of you being who you are to them.
- Build a mindset of recovery in your child. The temptation of many people who endure trauma is to be stuck in the mindset of a victim. This mindset does not lend itself towards recovery. Instead, focusing on seeing your child as a survivor and an over-comer can help them recover from what happened. While they will not forget about what happened, they can overcome the past and press forward with their future.
A traumatic experience is a horrible situation for anyone. It can be hard for anyone, child or adult, to recover from but it is not impossible. The important thing for any parent whose child has suffered from trauma is to be there and be present for them.