Step 1: Provide support and acceptance
Remember: This is the first and most important step in helping your child manage his or her PTSD. Your child needs your love, support, and acceptance more than anything else! If your child feels accepted and understood by you, he or she may not develop PTSD, even after a serious trauma.
- Not all children and teens who experience a trauma will develop PTSD. If your child feels supported by the family afterward, he or she is less likely to have PTSD symptoms later on. So, as a first step, you can help your child by providing lots of love and support.
- As a parent having your child experience a trauma can also be very difficult for you. For example, you might blame yourself, and believe that you did not “protect” your child enough. Your first instinct might even be to leave your child alone for a bit and give him or her time and space alone to deal with what happened. However, children can misinterpret this to mean that you somehow blame them for what happened.
Tip #1: Be an active listener! Encourage your child to talk to you about what happened and any feelings he or she might have about the event. This can be an important part of your child’s recovery. For younger children who might have difficulty or be unable to talk about a trauma, encourage them to draw a picture or story about what happened.
Tip #2: Remind your child that it was not his or her fault, and provide lots of love!
Step 2: Teaching your child about anxiety & PTSD
- No matter what type of anxiety problem your child is struggling with, it is important that he or she understands the facts about anxiety.
Fact 1: Anxiety is a normal and adaptive system in the body that tells us when we are in danger.
Fact 2: Anxiety becomes a problem when our body tells us that there is danger when there is no real danger. Children and youth who have been traumatized often over-predict danger in future situations, when there is none.
- As an important first step, help your child to understand that all the worries and physical feelings have a name: Anxiety. This is especially important for children with PTSD, since the many symptoms of PTSD can feel very frightening.