Childhood trauma is one of the most common but frequently unnoticed issues that many children and adolescents encounter today. Tragically, untreated childhood trauma may lead to bad decision-making, and a road toward self-destruction as children approach adolescence and early adulthood.
However, there are actions parents can do to actively assist their teenagers in recovering from their experience and building the resiliency they need to live healthy lives.
Types of Childhood trauma
Abuse of any kind, whether physical, mental health, sexual, or verbal, is a significant contributor to childhood trauma. Likewise, if a kid grows up in a family unable to depend on their caregivers, they may develop this disorder. These traumatic events may have long-lasting effects on a child’s mental and emotional health, making it hard for them to trust people and increasing their susceptibility to engaging in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, addiction, and academic failure. According to studies, youth who end up in the juvenile court system are more likely to have suffered trauma as children
Teens who have gone through trauma in their early years may have been subjected to physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, including comments like “you’re worthless, and you’ll never amount to anything.” Teens who grew up in homes where they were neglected and unable to rely on the people in their lives may also experience childhood trauma. Teenagers who have experienced recent or prior trauma run the risk of developing behaviors that lead to academic failure, school suspension, and an increased chance of drug use and addiction. According to research, most teenagers in the juvenile justice system have been harmed as children in some way.
It may be difficult for parents to determine whether their teen’s struggles at home or school are due to a traumatic occurrence. Because adolescents are reluctant to trust people or open up about their own experiences, adolescent trauma may be difficult to identify. In certain situations, children may be dealing with persistent trauma that they fear would worsen if they discuss it. When a preteen or adolescent experiences abuse-related trauma, they may experience intense emotions, including guilt that they were the cause of the pain, insecurity, humiliation, or shame.
Parents who dread or become aware of their child’s trauma should seek professional support in treating it, notwithstanding how difficult it may be for parents to notice trauma. According to research, having a secure and loving family may help children and teenagers heal from trauma and build resilience in addition to getting therapy.
In order to assist their adolescent in coping with trauma, parents can:
1. Establish a schedule at home and follow it.
Knowing what to anticipate in their daily routine at school and home may help establish a feeling of safety and lessen any worry or anxiety for children and teenagers who need to feel comfortable.
Teens may recuperate via solid family bonds and a secure home environment by scheduling pleasurable activities as a family.
2. Show compassion, endurance, and support (especially on
the hard days).
Even without trauma, adolescence may be a difficult period for parents. Still, when an adolescent has experienced trauma, there may be tremendous guilt for not being able to shield them and a complicated kind of grieving due to the loss of their childhood. Teens who have gone through trauma often act out, experiment with drugs, or put a lot of effort into making it seem as if everything is OK when it isn’t on the challenging days when they want to give up or are tired of how they behave, practice patience. Your adolescent needs your love and support now more than ever, whether they realize it or not
3. Refrain from penalizing any anxiety-related behavior
Moodiness is often considered to be a regular aspect of adolescence. Teens who have gone through trauma, however, can behave irrationally if anything reminds them of the trauma they have gone through. If they don’t feel comfortable, don’t push them to contact anybody, mainly if someone is related to them or a member of their peer group who may have been directly or indirectly involved in their trauma. According to research in the Journal of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill, trauma may negatively impact an adolescent’s brain development since this process doesn’t finish until the mid-20s. Teens’ experiences and the environment they grow up in significantly impact how their brains develop.
4. Help your adolescent be ready for the unexpected.
Help your adolescent become ready for anticipated challenging or disruptive occurrences. Talking to your kid about how to manage circumstances when they may have to confront their abuser in court or if they come across anything that can trigger memories of what occurred can be a part of helping them cope with their trauma. This may be a location, a special occasion, a family get together, or an item for some teenagers that may bring up memories of the incident
5. Avoid pressuring your adolescent to speak
No matter how hard it is to learn that, your kid has suffered trauma. There is a desire to know what happened because, for some parents, it might be intolerable not to know what occurred precisely.
If your kid or adolescent is not prepared to discuss their trauma, do not make the request. When a teen is coerced into talking about their trauma before they are ready, they risk experiencing the event again and re-traumatized.
6. When listening to them, control your emotions.
When kids and teenagers are ready to speak about their trauma, it’s crucial that they may do so without worrying about how (or if) their parents will react. A parent preparing oneself for the day their child is ready to speak about their trauma may be a component of trauma treatment for kids and teenagers. Allow your adolescent to talk if they wish to discuss the experience with you without passing judgment on their point of view. They need to be allowed to speak about their horrific event, so don’t react or disclose your emotional problems
Get in touch with an expert
The ability to communicate about what occurred and seek professional treatment is the most crucial and likely hardest thing a parent can do for their kid. There are several methods for dealing with trauma in children and teenagers. Effective evidence-based treatments include Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), which teaches clients how to process and control their thoughts, emotions, and actions in the wake of a traumatic incident. Working with the parent to establish family support and communication is part of this strategy. Play, painting, and storytelling are utilized in trauma-focused play therapy for younger children to help them process and express their experiences while boosting their self-esteem and coping mechanisms. By putting your kid in touch with a therapist, you may encourage them to speak about what occurred, recognize that they did nothing wrong, and learn that they can form good connections with other people.
Despite all the research showing how trauma adversely impacts youth, there is always hope for a good result. As humans, we have minds and bodies that are programmed for survival and resiliency. When parents are aware of the signs of childhood trauma, they may support their child or adolescent in the healing process by learning good coping mechanisms to learn to control their emotions, think clearly and constructively, and behave more responsibly. Teens may find it challenging to process their childhood trauma, but they don’t have to go through it alone. Children and teenagers may learn how resilient they are and how to recover with the help of family and a qualified therapist.