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The 5 Challenges of Raising a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma

Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse or suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.


It is challenging for parents to level with a child who has experienced trauma. Moreover, it is confusing for a parent to understand the emotions the child goes through. A child needs to feel protected and loved. In many cases, it could take months or even years to feel normal, depending on the nature of trauma. Parents who misunderstand their child’s behavior can exacerbate the situation. For a child, it’s even worse being felt stranded and alone than the traumatic episode itself. Parents are the source of support for a child. In this trying time, parents need to be firm. They need to seek help in providing the care, affection and attention that their child needs.

Parents must know the various factors that can lead to trauma.

These include the following:

· Bullying
· Abuse
· Mental or physical illness
· Accidents
· Violence

Parents face many hurdles. For the path to recovery, parents need to identify challenges before they can provide the support that their child needs. Parents who know beforehand the challenges they could face looking after their traumatized child are more able to do so.

Here are some of those challenges:

1. Understanding the child’s behavior.

Every child is different. Hence, every child may react to trauma differently. Some may become violent, while others may become withdrawn. It can be distressing for a parent; they may not understand why their child acts the way they do. Lack of understanding makes things tough for both the parent and the child. A child cannot move on from the traumatic event. A child’s age, emotional maturity, experiences and the severity of the trauma play a role in this. Moreover, children interpret events differently.

To understand a child’s behavior, parents must understand what the child has gone through. In times of danger, every individual has a fight or flight reaction. The same is valid for children. When a child faces trauma, their brain and the nervous system react aggressively. This behavior manifests even after the threat is no longer present, which may lead to violent outbursts, anger and misbehavior. It takes time for the child to unlearn this behavior.

2. Secondary trauma.

Parents and families of children who have undergone trauma may experience “secondary trauma.” Some signs of secondary trauma, according to Child Welfare, are given as follows:
· Headaches
· Stomach aches
· Lack of energy
· Anxiety
· Depression
· Increased drinking
· Being critical of your actions
· Forgetfulness
· Sleep problems

3. Lack of support.

Parents of children with trauma may feel alone. A lack of support from the community makes it difficult for parents and families to cope with the challenges. People may not understand what the traumatized child or family is going through. They may not relate to the challenges that the family face, and it may cause them to be insensitive to the family’s condition. A lack of understanding can make it hard for the family to find support among friends and the community, which makes it difficult for parents to escape the bubble.

4. Feelings of embarrassment and resentment.

Parents may feel shame due to their child’s aggressive behavior, making it a challenge to interact with other families. The family may not be able to function together. Feelings of embarrassment and resentment can lead to bitterness, creating barriers for the child to receive proper care from parents. Moreover, parents may feel judged and become critical of their actions. It can add to the stress that a parent experiences in raising a child. It can also affect other members of the family. With such tension in the household, a traumatized child does not get the attention and care that they require.

5. Lack of consistency.

Parents who lack the guidance and support in raising a traumatized child may have trouble in parenting. They may not be consistent with their parenting behaviors. When a child shows aggression, parents may react aggressively or disregard the action. A child may interpret this as acceptance of the behavior or as a means to get what they want. When a parent becomes aggressive as a response to the child’s violent behavior, it worsens the situation. Instead of telling the child how to cope with a trigger, it makes the child aggressive or meek. Hence, parents must lay a set of rules that everyone must follow. Alongside this, parents should know the exceptions to rules and when to bend them.

So what can parents do?

When dealing with a child who has undergone trauma, parents are the primary caregivers. They are expected to be on their toes and provide 24/7 care to their children.

Here are a few things that parents should keep in mind:

1. Have patience.

Parents do not have it easy when dealing with a child who has experienced trauma. They are expected to provide care and affection to the child. Often parents try their best, but sometimes it can be frustrating for parents when they see no progress in the child’s condition. Hence, parents must have patience. Parents need to realize that it will take time for their children to get back to their natural self, so they shouldn’t lose hope.

2. Identify what triggers the trauma.

The cause of misbehavior and violent outbursts could be a result of a trauma trigger. It can be in the form of smell, sight, sound or voice. Instead of reprimanding the child, the parent should talk to the child about their feelings. Moreover, a parent should provide a protective environment to the child so that they can talk about their feelings. Remember that it will take some time for the child to change their behavior.

3. Be physically present.

It is challenging to be there for a disruptive child, but the key to helping a child get over trauma is to be physically present for them. The physical presence of a parent or a guardian is reassuring for a child. Children need constant assurance in the form of hugs. It creates a safe space for a child and makes them feel loved. Being there for the child during the recuperation is essential. A child needs to know they have someone by their side.

Despite how much a parent tires, it is impossible to be physically present for their child every single minute of the day. In that case, parents can make use of monitoring applications such as Xnspy. It is a cell phone monitoring app that monitors your child’s activity 24/7 and provides instant reports. The app can help a parent control application activity, and allow the use of apps that they consider age-appropriate for their child.

In addition to this, apps such as Xnspy make it easier for parents to monitor certain words that a child may use in text messages. Kids who are affected by trauma are prone to depression, anxiety and in some cases, suicidal tendencies. Hence, parents can use the monitoring app to provide alerts in case a child uses any negative words in text messages.

4. Seek treatment.

There is no shame in asking for advice. If your child’s behavior is not improving or it is becoming worse, seeking the help of a professional is beneficial. A therapist may perform a mental health assessment to determine the severity of the trauma. Moreover, medication for a child may help improve the condition.

Seeking treatment for a child’s mental health has many benefits. It helps the child control negative emotions, such as anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. And it can help a child develop a positive outlook on certain events. Therapy provides a protective environment for the child to open up. Parents can also learn how to deal with their child’s feelings and emotions.

5. Make your mental health a priority as well.

A child isn’t the only one who goes through a tough time; parents face difficulties too. Parents may feel emotionally drained and feel like they are not doing enough. Hence, therapy is not only necessary for the child, but it is also equally crucial for the parent. Often parents focus too much on their child’s well-being. Providing care to your child can take a toll on you. Being physically and emotionally present at all times can drain your energy as well. Parents must take out time to unwind. You should try finding support in friends, family and the community. Often feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment make it difficult for you to cope. Parents can only provide support and care to their children only if they are mentally and physically healthy themselves.

Raising a child with trauma has its difficulties, but with the right knowledge and tools available to a parent, things can improve, albeit slowly. A parent’s job is to have patience, never give up and be consistent. Only then will they be able to see improvement.

Photo credit:Rawpixel/Getty Images

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