At the core a traumatic event is that it overwhelms a child’s ability to cope and threatens their view that the world is safe. The type of traumatic event experienced by a child can have impacts on the type of psychoeducation topics that will most benefit the child. In cases of abuse it is critical that the discussion be facilitated by a mental health professional familiar with children and trauma to prevent re-traumatizing the child, make sure the information is age appropriate, and to be alert for common defense mechanisms or thinking errors.
While there are some differences, therapy for child abuse includes psychoeducation for sexually abused children. Psychoeducation has three common goals.
1. Misinformation must be corrected. This is specific to the type of abuse experienced. In the case of sexual abuse, psychoeducation provides the child/family the chance to discuss different types of sexual abuse, why sexual abuse occurs, who’s to blame, how abused children may feel in general, sexualized feelings and behaviors associated with abuse, and why children often don’t tell someone about their abuse.
2. Provide Sex Education. The focus on sex education could include information on healthy sexuality, body awareness (Ex. Private parts, facts on functions of sexual body organs, pregnancy, etc), and health-related issues (Ex. STD’s). It is important to keep in mind the age and/or developmental level of the children/youth you are treating. It is important to have the parent’s permission before providing sex education to these children. If appropriate, encouraging the caregiver to participate would be beneficial for these children to gain or enhance the caregiver/child bond. Including exercises/activities to help the children understand the concepts of sex education could also be valuable.
3. Risk Reduction. Children should be taught how to identify and respond to high risk situations to prevent further abuse/trauma. Risk reduction methods could include the following:
– Developing a safety plan in response to a violent or abusive situation
– Learning assertiveness skills (Ex: learning to say “no” loud, clear, with eye contact, etc)
– Understanding the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch
– Developing skills to respond to inappropriate sexual or physical touch (Ex: telling an authority figure)
– Role play appropriate skills/responses
If your child has experienced abuse, they may have psychological trauma. A trained mental health professional familiar with children and trauma is the best way to identify possible trauma responses and help the child and their non-offending parent find recovery. Call today: 402-325-0117.