By Sara Sparrow
Parenting is always a tricky path, no matter what your family looks like. However, you will face more challenges if your child has faced trauma in the past. This changes the way you'll interact with them and give them the care that they need. Here's what you need to know about adapting your parenting style to help your child thrive after a traumatic experience.
What Is Trauma?
Firstly, you should have an understanding of what trauma means for a child. Children are resilient, and there are some experiences that will be anxiety inducing for them, such as being left at school for the first time. However, these are experiences that help them learn and grow.
There are some events though, that will have a bigger impact on a child and affect them negatively. Trauma will come about differently for each child, but common traumas include:
The Effects Of Trauma
Just like in adults, the effects of trauma are varied in children. These effects can be grouped into four different categories, as follows:
Physical: Inability to control physical reactions to stress, chronic illness
Mental: Difficulty in learning and concentrating, and switching from one activity to the other. Impaired memory is another key effect of trauma.
Emotional: Low self esteem, feeling unsafe, trouble with making friends, trust issues, depression, anxiety, and so on.
Behavioral: Substance abuse, lack of impulse control, fighting, and aggression.
Helping A Child Who Has Been Through Trauma
So, how can you help a child who has been through trauma? There are a few things you should remember, as you'll need to adapt your parenting style to help your child.
Understand They Aren't 'Misbehaving'
It's so easy for a child to be labeled as a 'troublemaker' when they've been through trauma. This is because they had to learn certain behaviors in order to get through the traumatic time in their lives. These behaviors are very much like a reflex, and will come about without the child thinking about it. They may be safe now in your home, but their brain won't have processed that right away.
For example, trauma triggers are events that remind the child of the trauma they went through. When they experience this, may either 'fight', take 'flight', or freeze. To you, that can look like they're fighting with you, defying you, or not listening. Understanding these responses is key to caring for such a child.
Be Available To Them
Your child may not have had positive adult attention before, but you'll want to show them that you're there for them, no matter what. Younger children may want extra attention and hugs, while older children may just want to spend time as a family. Ensure that you're emotionally and physically available to them.
Creating a routine for your child will help them recover from the events they've been through, especially if they didn't experience consistency in the past. If any new events or changes are coming up, prepare your child in advance for them.
Listen To Their Feelings
If your child wants to talk about their feelings, allow them a safe space to do so. Show them it's ok to be dealing with complicated feelings, even though they're now in a safe place.
Give Some Control
Allowing children some control can help them, when they were used to turbulent living conditions before. Give them age appropriate choices so they can regain that sense of control.
It may take some time for your child to come to terms with what happened to them. It may take a while for them to fully trust that they are safe. Take everything at their pace, and show them that you're ready and willing to help them through it.
Parenting a child who has been through trauma can be challenging, but if you take it slow and show your child you're there for them, you can help them get through it and be happy and healthy.
About the author: Sara Sparrow is a health writer with Thesis writing service and Essay services, where she focuses on children's health. She also contributes to sites like Ox Essays.
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