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Ten Tips for Helping Children Manage Trauma

Imagine taking a familiar road trip to a friend’s house. You are driving along enjoying the scenery. Suddenly, you are met with a detour in the road. There are police lights and fire trucks and people are yelling at you to turn around. You are now forced to go in a direction you have never gone before. 

The calm, peaceful journey just became a difficult and challenging situation. How do you react to it?  How do you keep the people in your car calm?  

This is what has happened to all of us with Covid-19.  Everyone is experiencing the “same” trauma, but expressing their emotions in such varied ways.  Children are the most susceptible to big feelings in small bodies. How can we help them cope?

10 Tips for Trauma-Informed Care:

Tip #1: It’s Automatic.  Kids are not reacting negatively on purpose. They are reacting to the unknown -- to the fears that they sense in their environment. These may look different than you expect. It could mean your children are now sleeping more hours or not able to fall asleep at all. Maybe they show lack of interest in school work.You may see them becoming morose or hostile.  Remember this isn’t personal: Your child isn’t lashing out at you - they are overwhelmed by their emotions. 

Tip #2: Model Self-Regulation: Help kids be able to regulate their emotions by modeling them appropriately so they learn to express feelings in a healthy way.

Tip #3: Be Curious. Find out what’s bothering your child. Don’t ask yes/no questions; rather, ask questions that gets the child to share stories. 

Tip #4: Find Space for Your Grief. Take the time to explore your grief. If you are grieving, so is your child. Find some self-care exercises you can do to help manage what you are feeling, so you don’t project these emotions onto your child.

Tip #5: Be Authentic. Most of the time, caregivers want to protect the child from their feelings. Do the opposite: Be open with your feelings and show your child it’s okay to feel what they are feeling.

Tip #6: PAUSE.  It is so tempting to say “You’re grounded!” when your kid misbehaves. Wait a few minutes and try to process the reason for your child’s behaviors. 

Tip #7: Be Aware. Children are being exposed to information through remote learning, YouTube, news media, TikTok, and so forth. Pay attention to what they choose to interact with, and limit exposure to the negativity.

Tip #8: Be Honest. Whatever we do, we cannot lie to our children. Be as honest as possible about what is happening and control the information that is being conveyed. Be mindful of whether it is age-appropriate to share certain information. 

Tip #9: Check In with Yourself. In situations like the pandemic, we are becoming more stressed and worried. Our reactions and how we feel about things may seem atypical. Take a few minutes to explore your thoughts. Ask yourself if this is something you would usually do. If you find your child becoming more irritated with you or becoming fearful of you, take a step back and check in with yourself. Ask for help or talk with a friend. 

Tip #10: Find Forgiveness. If you find yourself reacting or not being able to self-regulate, forgive yourself because you are living in the moment. Take the time to regroup and start a new day. 

 

I'm a mother of an 18-year-old daughter with mental health issues. WCS changed me by helping me become a strong mother and helped me through the struggles of my daughter’s mental health issues. THANK YOU!

Kellyjo Copabianco
WCS Parent