When a child is born we assume they are a clean slate. In fact, there are Psychologists out there who still refer to tabula rasa as the state of a child’s mind. We think we can program them much like a brand new computer. We think we can load drives and programs that will make them little mini me’s without the added baggage of a life scars, mistakes and regrets. However, a baby is not a blank slate and we are not able to program them exactly as we wish. Sometimes our kids will get hurt. Sometimes our kids will suffer trauma. We cannot always prevent or stop the hurts but we can prepare ourselves to teach our kids how to deal with them.
These are the most important things to teach our kids regarding trauma and hurts:
1. There is nothing wrong with getting help.
You would be amazed how many people we talk to that refer to therapy as common sense or say other brilliant things like, ‘We deal with our problems as a family.’ Since 90% of all childhood trauma occurs at home we find the last one kind of amusing. A professional will give you a different point of view and assistance on how to treat the problem. You don’t perform your own appendectomies so please do not think a hug or a pony will fix post-traumatic stress of a child.
2. The best way over it is through it.
When we deny our feelings we create a wall. That wall will abut another wall and so on and so on. Before we know it we are an emotionally stunted adult who can’t seem to relate. Teaching your child to feel the pain and acknowledge their fears is not dwelling on the hurt but learning to deal with it. Be prepared for good days and bad, however, and remember that how you approach this will dictate the potential outcome. If you approach your traumatized child with fear, they will too. Check your feelings and affect.
3. Even when you thought it was over…
Post-traumatic Stress does not clear up like a rash. One day your kid will have nightmares and scream and the next month seems like there was a miraculous cure. All of a sudden, the screaming returns. This is normal. Be patient. True healing is not a magic pill. In fact, it is probably likely that your child will re-experience the PTSD when they become adults. This is a great time to have them go back to a professional and work on the PTSD as adults.
4. PTSD is a family issue
Your child has a hurt. When one family member is hurt it affects the entire family system. Do not discount the help family therapy will have on your child. Also, couples therapy may be in order as well depending on how the couple deals with stress in the family. If you have the history of increased agitation or fighting in the face of adversity, a new way of dealing with things is in order.
Ultimately, to be the best parent possible, you need to be present. You need to let them cry. You also need to be aware when your child is milking things. We know, what a terrible thing to say but it does happen. A child learns to manipulate when they cry. Manipulation is not always a negative thing. You do what you need to do to get what you need. However, when we hurt and abuse others, that’s when manipulation is a bad thing.
Be patient. Be loving. And if you get overwhelmed, get more help.
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