5 do’s and 1 don’t of parenting traumatised children

There are many things in life that traumatise children, from the death of a loved family member or pet, the loss of a house due to fire, being in a natural disaster, a car accident, bullying at school, being in a domestic violence situation, parents separating, and many more.

Despite all the claims that children are resilient and aren’t really affected by these things, this is not true. With the proper support children can grow and recover after a traumatic event. Without the proper support this is unlikely to happen.

Here are 5 do’s for parenting your traumatised child:

  1. Are you coping okay? If you are not, get help. Research has shown that children cope best after traumatic events when their parents are calm and appear to be able to handle the situation the family is in. To do that, you may need counselling to assist with your trauma.
  2. Create a safe space. Keep a space in your home that is calm. This is a space your child can go to when feeling overwhelmed or frightened. It can contain soft toys, cuddly blankets, pillows, favourite books, anything your child may find calming and helpful. Your child must be able to go there without having to ask or explain. You can calmy tell them it is okay to be there and you are available if they need to talk or have a cuddle but then leave them in the space. Make sure you are nearby and they know you are. Allow them to stay there until they are feeling able to come out. It may be a good idea for you to have a safe space to go to be calm as well.
  3. Establish predictability. Have a stable routine so your child can predict what will happen in a day. It may help to write on a board what is happening in the day. Make sure you talk with your child about anything coming up that is different, so they can prepare for it. Predictability feels safe and that is what your child needs.
  4. Build of sense of trust. Be trustworthy. Be there for your child. Defend them. Speak up for their needs. Honour your promises to your child. Follow the household routine. If for any reason you cannot follow that, then explain to your child what has happened. If your child tells you something in confidence, then honour that confidence. Don’t tell other people about what they have said. The only exception to that is where it is necessary for your child’s wellbeing. In that case let your child know you have to do that.
  5. Offer choices. Allow your child to feel in control in their life. Offer them alternatives whenever possible. Even if it is just whether they want a glass of water now or later, or in this cup or that cup. Give them the opportunity to say no or yes.

The final point is a Don’t. It is:

Don’t punish your child for behaviours that are trauma symptoms.

Trauma symptoms include

• Difficulty with concentration

• Being withdrawn

• Being excessively active

• Getting angry easily

• Crying for no apparent reason

• Answering back, refusing to do what they have been told and other “disobedient” behaviours

• Picking on other people

• Being irritable

• Not doing schoolwork

• Not being hungry

• Not able to sleep

• Appearing to regress, such as a child who is toilet trained not using the toilet.

It is always helpful to get professional help for you and your children. For very small children a specialised child counsellor is best (under 5).

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with coping with the situation or help your older child, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

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