Has A Recent Traumatic Event Led To A Significant Change In Your Child?
Has your child been directly exposed (experienced, witnessed or learned of harm to a close loved one) to an actual event that threatened life, presented real danger, caused injury or involved a sexual violation? Has your child experienced reoccurring thoughts, feelings, memories or nightmares related to the event? Have you noticed that your child avoids people, places, situations or things that are related to the event? Has he or she become withdrawn and socially isolated or, adversely, hyperactive, aggressive or highly emotional? Are you feeling highly stressed, helpless, scared or anxious as you watch your child behave in uncharacteristic ways? Do you wish that you could take your child’s pain away, but have no idea how to do so? Do you feel guilty – especially if you were somehow involved in the event – and constantly wish that you could go back in time and do something that would have prevented the trauma from occurring?
Watching our children in pain and experiencing trauma can be an extremely scary and painful place to be as a parent. It can be difficult to determine how severe the trauma is and if your child really is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and needs expert help. You may feel like you’re walking on eggshells, not wanting to set your child off. You may be struggling to calm your child and find ways to curve their sudden aggressive behaviors. Or, you may feel challenged to find ways to connect with your child and show them that they are supported, loved and okay. Children – like adults – perceive events and process stress and pain in different ways. A highly trained and experienced BPS therapist can help determine how severe your child’s response to the traumatic event is – if they truly are suffering from PTSD – and provide both you and your child with the support and tools needed to navigate this painful time.
Unprocessed Trauma Causes PTSD In Many Children
When a child experiences a trauma that does not get processed, it’s common to develop PTSD. Some research suggests that PTSD is directly related to the perception of self in relationship to the event – that the child feels victimized somehow. This is different for everyone. While you – or another child – may have processed the event and related trauma already, your child may have been impacted more severely and still be struggling. Children can experience the emotional effects of trauma up to 10 times more intensely than an adult. Therefore, for some children, getting help can be vital. Trauma affects the body and can have long-lasting physical impacts as well as emotional ones if it’s not processed in a healthy way and discharged from the body.
Therapy Can Effectively Help Your Child Navigate and Process Trauma
Thankfully, experience shows us that therapy can be very effective in addressing trauma and PTSD in children. An experienced therapist can help your child work through their trauma and regain a positive sense of self and community.
Because trauma manifests itself physically, treating PTSD often requires more than just a cognitive, talk therapy approach. Many children become “stuck” in their trauma and experience an ongoing fight or flight response. Imagine being in a car and pushing on the gas peddle and the break simultaneously.
For many children, getting help soon after the event is critical. Most PTSD symptoms will not go away without proper treatment. And, if a trauma goes untreated, it can have a lasting impact. Your child may continue to experience physical triggers as his or her body keeps trying to finish processing the trauma. Symptoms can become compounded and lead to increased and abnormal fears, social isolations and risky behaviors.
Using specific treatment modalities, your BPS therapist will help your child unwind and settle his or her nervous system. Once the nervous system has settled, your child’s therapist will use various, age and personality appropriate techniques to help your child “unpack” the trauma and take it to completion. With slow and guided support, your child can become unstuck, finish processing his or her trauma and let go of the symptoms created by the trauma. With help, your child can feel healthy and secure and much more like their pre-trauma selves again.
But, you still may have questions or concerns…
I think that therapy could be helpful. We need to do something. I’m just not sure that we can afford it right now.
This is your child’s life and wellbeing. Addressing the emotions and behaviors associated with your child’s PTSD may prevent a host of problems from continuing to occur now and as he or she enters new developmental stages, such as adolescence. Working with a therapist on fully processing a trauma and the physical and emotional symptoms it creates now can be critical. It can help symptoms from becoming compounded and prevent negative residual feelings and behaviors. It can also give both you and your child the tools, education, resources and support needed to navigate a painful and confusing time.
Many people come to BPS having worked with other therapists who were not trained to work specifically with PTSD in children or who they or their child couldn’t relate with – which is a waste of time and money. At BPS, we’ll conduct an initial assessment and match you with a therapist who is trained and experienced in working with children experiencing PTSD and whose personality is a good match for you and your child. Once you find that good match, making a commitment to your child, yourself and your family may be one of the most valuable investments there is. Imagine your child feeling and functioning better on a regular basis and ask yourself what that’s worth.
If money still is an issue, you can talk with your BPS therapist to see if they work on a sliding scale. They may also be able to help you find other lower cost resources in the community.
Time heals all wounds, right? Won’t this go away on its own?
If your child truly is suffering from PTSD, it will not go away on its own. Believing otherwise is kind of like saying that cancer will go away without treatment. There are many traumas that can be processed without expert help, but when a trauma reaches the level of PTSD (which is a disorder), treatment is vital. Intervention is needed to help kick-start your child’s brain and nervous system so he or she can become unstuck and resolve the trauma. Your child will also get the help they need to manage their emotions and behaviors, which will keep symptoms from becoming compounded. It can prevent them from being easily triggered. Simply, therapy can help them become whole again and feel better now and in the long-term.
I think that therapy is necessary, but my child has become so different lately. I’m not sure that he or she will open up and talk about what happened or that therapy will make him or her feel worse.
The BPS therapists who work with children and PTSD are highly qualified and experienced. Their training affords them the knowledge needed to figure out how to help your child open up and work through his or her trauma. They have many approaches to draw from, and will meet your child where he or she is emotionally. The goal is to create feelings of empowerment and trust. The process is thoughtful and determined by your child’s specific personality and needs. Once trust is established and your child feels comfortable in the therapeutic environment, a shift to healing can begin.
We encourage you to schedule an initial assessment with Dr. Jan Hittelman. Jan will work with you to determine what your child’s specific issues are and to ensure a good match between you, your child and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.
You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with children and PTSD.