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Traumatic Events and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Helping Your Child Deal with Recent Traumatic Events

A child's age and previous experience will affect how they cope with events in their life. The way a child sees and understands their parents' response is paramount to how they will deal with the traumatic event. While it is important to be honest, be careful not to burden your child with more information than necessary given the child's age. During this time, your child may be particularly vulnerable, and parents should take an active role in assessing the child's level of functioning in three different areas, which include: Physical, Emotions/Thoughts and Behaviors.

If your child is suffering from low physical functioning such as sleep disturbances and physical complaints, in order to meet the child's need, try to maintain your normal schedule and acknowledge the child's complaints. If your child is experiencing unrealistic thoughts and fears or displays irritability make sure the child feels secure and be generous with hugs and family coping time. However, if your child is exhibiting withdrawal or defiance you can expect and allow your child to be a little more clingy. During this time spend more time together away from the television.

One of the things children of all ages can benefit from is your availability to talk with them and answer their questions. Having the right answers is not nearly as important as your availability to listen to their concerns. Take the time to put your arm around them and give them the subtle reassurance they need.

If you are concerned about your child or would like to talk more specifically about your situation please call our FREE 24 hour, confidential Assessment Line at 605-322-4065 or 1-800-691-4336 to speak with a counselor.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD is a disorder that develops in response to exposure to or involvement in a traumatic event. The symptoms usually develop within three months of the actual event, but symptoms may not appear until several months or even years later. The impact of the trauma is unique to the individual experiencing it. There are medications and therapeutic interventions that can be used to assist the child and their family as the child works through the after effects of the trauma.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a child/adolescent has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted by a traumatic event. This can include birth trauma, child abuse, domestic abuse, rape, loss of parents; uncertainty associated with war, natural disasters, and motor vehicle accidents. PTSD symptoms will occur within three months of the traumatic event; but its symptoms can become active months and years after the event. Not all children who experience trauma require treatment; some recover with the assistance of family and friends, their pastor, or physician. Symptoms of PTSD may include behavior problems that are often non-specific in nature and caution must be exercised not to attribute all behavioral problems to sexual abuse. There are medications and therapeutic interventions that can be used to assist the child and their family as the child works through the after effects of the trauma.

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Extreme changes in activities (hyperactivity or withdrawal)
  • Decrease in self esteem and self confidence
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Increased fearfulness and mistrust
  • Distorted body image
  • Displays aggressive behavior 
  • Frightened or phobic especially of adults
  • Exhibit a deterioration in academic performance
  • Develop an eating disorder
  • Run away
  • Attempt suicide
  • Avoidance
  • Flashbacks of the event 

Treatments for PTSD

  • Behavior therapy
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Peer counseling groups
  • Inpatient treatment and medication