A traumatic event is any frightening, dangerous, or violent event that poses a threat to your child's life or bodily integrity. Witnessing a traumatic event that threatens the life or physical integrity of a loved one can also be traumatic to a child. A young child's sense of safety revolves around the perceived safety of their caregiver or attachment figure. After experiencing a traumatic event, a child will experience emotional and physical symptoms well after the event has ended. Children will often experience terror, helplessness, and fear. Physical symptoms might include vomiting, heart pounding, or loss of bowel or bladder control.
Even though, as a parent or caregiver, you have down your best to keep your child safe, dangerous events can still happen. These events can include car accidents, natural disasters, school shootings, or community violence. These events can also include domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one. Children can experience multiple types of trauma over the course of their lives which is referred to as traumatic stress. Traumatic stress can occur well after the events have ended and continue to affect a child's life well into adulthood. Traumatic reactions can include a variety of responses, such as intense and ongoing emotional upset, depressive symptoms or anxiety, behavioral changes, difficulties with self-regulation, problems relating to others or forming attachments, regression or loss of previously acquired skills, attention and academic difficulties, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and eating, and physical symptoms, such as aches and pains. Older children may use drugs or alcohol, behave in risky ways, or engage in unhealthy sexual activity.
Treatment involves specific focus on reducing trauma symptoms so that reminders of the traumatic events do not continue to trigger trauma responses. I provide trauma-focuded cognitive behavioral therapy for children and teens, and dialectical behavioral therapy for teens who struggle with emotional regulation and distress tolerance. Family therapy and parent support are also used as trauma affects the entire family and makes parenting difficult when challenging behaviors are involved.
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