Childhood trauma is one of the biggest problems experienced by children and teens, which is often hidden in plain sight. Sadly, childhood trauma can go untreated and result in unhealthy choices and a self-destructive path as children enter adolescence and young adulthood. However, there are steps that parents can actively take in helping their teens to heal from their experience and develop the resilience to lead healthy lives.
Teens who have experienced childhood Trauma Therapy Torontotrauma may have experienced physical, sexual, or verbal abused like being told they are worthless and will never amount to anything. Childhood trauma can also result from teens growing up in a home where they were neglected and couldn’t count on the adults around them. Not addressing recent or past trauma can leave teens at risk of developing problem behaviors resulting in school suspension and academic failure along with a likelihood of drug use and addiction. Research shows that the majority of teens in the juvenile justice system have experienced some form of childhood trauma.
It’s not always easy for parents to recognize when their teen’s difficulties at home or at school are the result of a traumatic event. Adolescent trauma can be difficult to recognize due to teens being unable to trust others or share details of their personal experience. In some cases there may be ongoing trauma that a teen fears will worsen if they talk about it. Trauma from abuse can leave a pre-teen or teen feeling intense emotions such as feelings of guilt that they caused the trauma, insecurity, and embarrassment or shame.
As difficult as it can be for parents to recognize trauma, parents who fear or become aware of their child’s trauma should seek professional assistance in addressing it. Research shows that what can children and teens recover from trauma and develop resilience is having a safe and supportive family in addition to seeking treatment.
Parents can help their teen deal with trauma in the following ways:
1. Set a routine at home and stick with it.
Children and teens need to feel safe, and knowing what to expect in their daily routine at school and at home can help create a sense of safety and reduce any fear or anxiety. Making time to do enjoyable things as a family can help teens heal through healthy family relationships and stable home life.
2. Be Understanding, Patient, and Supportive (especially on the hard days).
Adolescence can be a challenging time for a parent by itself, but when you are the parent of a teen whose experience trauma, there can be intense feelings of guilt for not being able to protect them, and a complicated form of grief over the loss of their childhood. Teens who have experienced trauma often act out, experiment with drugs, or work very hard at trying to pretend that everything is OK, when it really isn’t. Be patient on the difficult days when you feel like giving up or have had it for how they act. Whether they know it or will admit it, your teen will need your support and unconditional love more than ever.
3. Avoid punishing any behaviors that are related to anxiety.
Moodiness is often seen as a typical part of a teen’s life. However, teens who have experienced trauma can sometimes act out with irritability if they encounter anything that triggers a memory of the trauma they experienced. Don’t force them to interact with anyone if they are not comfortable, especially if there is anyone that is directly or indirectly involved in their trauma such as relatives or their peer group. In a published study in the Journal of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill, brain development of the adolescent can be negatively affected following trauma due to the brain development not being complete until the mid-20s. How a teen’s brain develops greatly depend on both the environment and their experience.
4. Prepare your teen for the unforeseen.
Help your teen prepare for potentially disruptive or difficult events that are foreseen. A part of helping your teen deal with their trauma can involve talking about how to handle situations in which they may have to see their abuser in court, or if they encounter something that can remind them of what happened. For some teens, this can include a place, holiday, family gathering, or an object that may trigger a memory of what happened.
5. Don’t push your teen to talk
As painful as it is to know your child has experienced a trauma. For some parents it can be unbearable for them not to know what exactly happened, and there is a need to know. Do not ask your child or teen to talk about their trauma if they are not ready to. A teen who is pressured into talking about their trauma can relive it and become re-traumatized if they are forced to talk about it before they are ready.