Every child deserves a safe and loving home. Especially when the child has experienced trauma in any form at an early age. Trauma can be anything from a natural disaster to an accident, to neglect and/or abuse, or being witness to abuse between caregivers, and more. Children who go through these painful experiences perceive and react to the world differently than children who had supportive, loving, and healthy upbringings. Keep reading below to learn about being supportive and working with your child to help them heal from trauma.

When a traumatic experience occurs, it triggers the flight, fight, or freeze response. Trauma may contribute to a child feeling out-of-control or helpless, and the body reacts in one of those three ways. Their hearts may beat faster, their blood pressure may rise, and these responses can lead to emotional outbursts or even aggressive behavior as a way to help them protect themselves. Some children are more sensitive or resilient than others, and rarely are two children with trauma the same.

Memories of trauma are not only stored in the brain, but also in the body, where it is remembered often far longer. The effects of trauma are amplified when it occurs repeatedly, several “small” stresses add up, the child is younger and may lack emotional, social, or intellectual skills to process the trauma properly, as well as when the child may have no or few social supports such as healthy relationships.

Children who experience trauma frequently have triggers that exacerbate their delicate emotional state. “Triggers,” can be anything from a certain smell or sound, a place, a tone of voice, and more. They vary from child to child, and what may bother or “trigger” one child may not do the same to another. Learning about triggers and doing your best to avoid them can help restore a sense of safety in the child’s mind over time, but requires work and frequent communication, and being proactive to avoid some of them when it’s reasonably possible to do so.

Further, some ways that may help you work with helping your child heal from some of their traumas are below:

• Set up and stick to routines.

This helps your child somewhat predict what the day will bring and what they know to expect day-to-day.

• Give your child a sense of control, and let them make their own decisions.

Small things, such as letting them choose what they want to wear, or giving them a say in what they want for dinner, can go a long way to limiting outbursts where they feel they may have no control.

• Try to stay calm whenever possible.

Find ways to respond to outbursts or other behaviors without also yelling or acting aggressively.

• Acknowledge how your child feels and remain available and responsive when they act up.

• Be consistent, predictable, caring, and patient.

Compassion goes a long way when handling not only other adults but children who have gone through trauma as well. Years of trauma don’t simply vanish as soon as a child is in a safe place. Learning to trust again doesn’t happen overnight, and the best thing you can do is be present and patient.

To learn more about how to help a child who has experienced trauma cope,  click here.