1. Don’t forget about physical contact. Show your child your tenderness and love. Hug him often. This will help him feel safe.
2. Establish a daily routine. In times of stress, orderliness of life has a great healing effect. When the child feels that he cannot control anything, the routine becomes an anchor of stability.
3. Calm him down often and reassure him that everything will be fine. Remind your child that he is safe and everything will be fine. Teach him how to deal with difficult emotions and calm down. Talk to him softly but confidently.
4. Help him choose the “transition object” – for example, a teddy bear or a special blanket. Transitional objects help children in the transition from addiction to independence. They can be very supportive.
5. Look into his eyes more often. Children who have experienced violence or abuse often avoid eye contact. Try to look your child in the eye more often to help them get used to eye contact.
“If a child has gone through a severe trauma, it is important for parents to understand that now is not the best time to teach him to be independent. Now he needs support first of all. He will be able to learn self-sufficiency and independence later, when the mental wounds heal, ”explains psychotherapist Shari Steines.
Parents gain confidence in helping children heal from the effects of trauma. And the confidence of adults is very important in itself.
What else should parents remember
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Don’t try to devote your life entirely to caring for others. Get some rest, get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, have fun. If you want to help your children, first of all, you yourself must be healthy and strong.
- Develop emotional contact with your child. Many children who have been traumatized are afraid of close relationships. Your task is to establish and maintain healthy emotional contact with your baby.
- Build mutual respect. The child should respect you. How can this be achieved? It is important that you respect him yourself and behave in such a way as to be worthy of respect. The child should clearly understand that you are stronger and wiser. You are not equal to him: you are older and more experienced, you can be relied on. You are the person to whom he can always turn for advice and help.
- Maintain eye contact. Teach your child to look you in the eye with every conversation, and stick to the same rule yourself. Eye contact creates a sense of comfort and safety.
- Don’t get annoyed. A child suffering from the consequences of trauma can often behave inappropriately, it is important not to be angry with him, but to find a creative approach. The main thing is not punishment, but strengthening your relationship.
- Trust your instincts. Don’t start doubting every decision. Other parents may give you advice based on their own experiences, but only you really know your child. Only you can decide what he really needs, no matter what others think about it.
- Deal with your own problems. If communication with your child often causes negative emotions, this is a sign that you still have to work on yourself. Until we comprehend our own past, it can always repeat itself. Analyze problems from your own childhood and heal your traumas so that you don’t repeat old mistakes or try to compensate for your own insecurities through your children. In no case should you try to solve your problems with the help of children, this is fraught with disastrous consequences.
Psychotherapy of childhood trauma
If the parents are confident in themselves, psychologically stable and stable, the therapist can limit themselves to working with the child. But if they themselves suffer from insecurity, are emotionally unstable and anxious, it is also important for them to work with a therapist.
“If your child has gone through severe trauma and you feel that you are not coping with stress, it can be very beneficial for you to go to psychotherapy or sign up for a parenting course,” recommends Shari Steines.
If parents react violently to the manifestations of the child’s problems, the therapist can help them deal with their own “triggers”. Yes, during the course of therapy, the child’s behavior will change for the better and, perhaps, the parents will also react more calmly, but it is important to remember that the child cannot be responsible for the well-being of his parents.
“It is very important for children to feel the leadership role of mom and dad in the family. It is especially important for parents of children suffering from the effects of trauma to assess their weaknesses sensibly and try to correct them. When a child feels strong and confident in their parents, they themselves feel safe, which is extremely important for a speedy recovery from an injury, ”explains Steines.
If the child begins to control the parents or even partially assumes their role, this family situation requires an early adjustment. This happens when parents trust their child with their secrets, or he himself begins to take care of them, or he is allowed to become the main one in the family. Such children do not feel safe because they do not see a real “adult” nearby who can help and protect.
If such an unhealthy dynamic has developed in the family, the first task of the therapist is to help the parents look “big”, “strong” and “older” in the eyes of the child (this is especially important for young children). When it comes to a teenager, a more diplomatic approach will be required to avoid a power struggle in the family.
“The teenager must recognize the dominance of the parents, but it is very important that they achieve this result with love and care, and not violence and coercion,” emphasizes Shari Steines.