Trauma is commonly defined as an event that causes or threatens to cause serious harm to an individual. All children require supportive, attentive parenting to grow into happy, healthy adults, but traumatized children may require more love and care than most. This does not mean that you should forego disciplining them entirely, but it does mean that you should take a more sensitive approach. Here are some tips on how to do this:
Address The Root of the Problem
When traumatized children “act up,” it is often in response to an environmental trigger. Therefore, to help prevent your child from experiencing undue anxiety, try to learn their triggers and remove those things from their environment. For example, if you notice that your child becomes extremely stressed whenever you take them to a certain store, then you should find an alternative place for them to safely wait while you shop there.
You should also be aware that physical and verbal aggression are both very common triggers, especially amongst victims of abuse. Accordingly, you should refrain from yelling at or physically threatening your child. When disciplining them, keep your voice low and calm, and do not make any sudden movements, as that will make the situation much worse.
Additionally, you should have your child meet regularly with a trusted, licensed therapist. Trauma can be an extremely complicated subject, and as a parent, you should ensure that your child has the necessary support system to work through it. Not only will a therapist be able to help your child better process their emotions, but they will also be able to provide you with additional resources for helping your child yourself.
Be Emotionally Available
One of the best things that you can do for a traumatized child is giving them space to share and explore their emotions. To do this, you will need to be emotionally available to your child. Prompt them to share their feelings with you, and respond with compassion when they elect not to. Make it clear that you are always available to listen to them, and provide comfort in a way that they will accept. Prove to your child that you will not judge them for their feelings, but be sure to guide them towards acceptable outlets for their negative emotions. Above all, remain patient with your child; trauma cannot be solved overnight, and trying to rush the process can make your child’s mental health much worse.
Provide Consistency and a Sense of Control
Often, childhood trauma is accompanied by a loss of consistency and personal control. To help your child recover from their trauma, you should search for ways to restore these things. Establish a steady routine for both yourself and your child, and try to stick to it as much as possible. If you need to change the routine, be sure to let your child know beforehand. Additionally, give your child as much control over their schedule as possible. Simple examples of this can include letting them pick their own clothes, allowing them to choose where they sit during dinner, or granting them a choice between two relaxation activities.