The term “trauma” can often feel big and scary, and while trauma is never a fun experience, there are varying degrees of trauma that people can go through, and that includes children, too. As a parent, you never want your child to experience trauma, but the fact of the matter is that any negative experience that causes a stress response in your brain can cause trauma, and those experiences could be large or small. Regardless of the kind or size of the trauma, it’s important to know stress management and coping strategies to teach your child to deal with trauma as it comes.
At the end of the day, trauma is a stress response that can take an emotional toll, and the younger that kids learn to deal with those stressors, the smoother they’ll be able to process and handle them. Not every trauma is alike, and not every person is alike, so each person will need their own strategies to find what works best for them in processing and dealing with traumatic experiences. Regardless, trauma can happen to everyone, and there are a few ways you can help your child learn to deal with it. Here are just a few of them.
- Teach Mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about anchoring yourself in the present moment and the sensations around you, which can help a lot with trauma management. Often, it can introduce a feeling of safety and calm when someone is stressed or anxious, which includes trauma processing. By teaching your child mindfulness techniques, they can learn to feel present and safe as a healthy coping mechanism.
- Use Meditation
Similar to mindfulness, meditation is all about calming the mind and the body to create a bit more relaxation. While meditation can be highly effective in calming someone down when they’re actively experiencing a flashback or upset, a regular meditation practice can also have widespread benefits across anyone’s quality of life. Meditation can help kids feel calmer and more collected while they process things and give them somewhere to turn when they need quiet.
- Be Present With Them
Trauma can make many people feel isolated, and that includes children. This is because stress and trauma can feel disorienting and lonely, so isolating behavior is common. Just like you should be there for a friend during trauma healing, it’s important to be there and truly be present with your children to remind them that they’re safe and not alone. Sit with them, hold them if they need and fully listen to them.
- Teach Them to Process
While trauma doesn’t just “go away” and processing trauma is just that — a continuous process — many experts think that the first 30 days after a traumatic event are some of the most important when it comes to processing and healing a trauma. That being said, teaching your child about processing trauma is a hard but necessary lesson. Talking about things with them and allowing them the safe space to talk about their experiences can go a long way.
- Encourage Them to Explore Their Emotions
Especially when kids are young — though this stands true for all people sometimes — trauma processing can be more about the emotions than the memories or experiences. While some people feel that trauma processing should be about getting to the bottom of what the experience was, it can be about so much more for the person experiencing it. As a parent, talking about their emotions and allowing them to fully explore their feelings freely can give them the chance to understand themselves and their experiences better.
- Help Them Feel Safe
Trauma and traumatic stress can often have the impact of making people feel unsafe in their environment, and this can be especially prevalent in children. One of the best ways to help your child manage trauma is to remind them that they are safe and that you will do anything to protect them when they need it. While you won’t always be there at every moment of their lives to protect them, that feeling and security can help them feel loved, supported and safe in their experiences going forward.
- Limit Stressors and Teach Them to Do the Same
Trauma can also cause anxiety in many people, and as a parent, one thing you can control is the stress exposure your child experiences and teach them about stress management. Children don’t need stress in their lives, and limiting things like overactive schedules and tense situations can help them keep the calm and happy existence they deserve to have.
Managing Trauma Together
Trauma is an unfortunate reality of human life, and while you can’t protect your child from ever experiencing it, you can teach them strategies and coping mechanisms to deal with it in a healthy and productive way. Often, processing trauma is about feeling the emotions, keeping calm and being present. You can teach your child to do all of those things, and who knows? You may learn something new along the way.