A traumatic event involves a single or repeated event which overwhelms the person’s ability to cope. Traumatic events threaten a child’s feeling of safety, control, and protection. The child may struggle to put memories, thoughts and emotions involved with the traumatic experience together into a complete understanding of the event. The sense of being overwhelmed can come after the event has passed, sometimes a long time afterward (even into adulthood).
Children are particularly susceptible to psychological trauma from a wide variety of events such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, witnessing violent acts, or even verbal abuse. Catastrophic events such as earthquakes, tornados, volcanic eruptions, severe storms, war, car accidents, etc. can also lead to psychological trauma. Children may feel uncertain and insecure about the world and their relationship to the adults in it. Children may have been misled with incorrect information. This misinformation could be a misguided attempt to console the child, or it may be intentional to confuse the child and protect the perpetrator.
Counseling for children can help. One of the best ways to help children who have been traumatized is to provide them with accurate information. A form of counseling called psychoeducation helps to identify and correct thinking errors children may have about the trauma event. A counselor can also help children and their parents understand what reactions to trauma are normal and expected. Talking with a counselor about the type of trauma the child has experienced is an excellent way to reduce anxiety and help the child to feel comfortable and in control of their trauma experience. When helping a child understand a traumatic event it is critical that the information be presented specific for that child’s age and development.
Not all people who experience a potentially traumatic event will actually become psychologically traumatized; however, psychological trauma can lead to serious long-term problems so it is important to contact a mental health professional trained to assist with trauma reactions in children. If you’re concerned about your child’s reaction to a major life event, consider an evaluation by a trauma trained mental health professional. Call today, 402-325-0117.