Ideally, children will get all of the information they need at home from their parents, but school should also be an important source of information.
Here is why:
Every time we had a sex talk back in high school, the coordinator would have a box where we would drop pieces of papers anonymously with questions to be answered at the end of the forum. Most of the questions that were asked are:
I know you might be thinking, these are just basic straight forward questions. Now that I am all grown up, I think these questions were real concerns for us because we had never been taught about sex.
The only basic thing was, “Do not have sex until you are married!” and “If you have sex you will get pregnant and your parents will be pissed!”
Lack of sex education- both by parents and in schools- is a major crisis that has major ripple effects through many parts of society.
Lack of sex education in schools has been identified as a major contributory factor to the high rate of teenage pregnancy and unsafe abortion in the country.
Believe it or not, every girl or boy ill one day has to make a life-changing decision about their sexual and reproductive health.
So imagine the gap that exists in the lack of knowledge that these young people require to make these kinds of decisions responsibly. This is why most of our young people are vulnerable to early pregnancies, coercion, and STI’s.
This is what we recommend. A Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
Comprehensive sexuality education is based on an approach that focusses on gender and rights.
Whether in school or at home, this kind of sex education is taught throughout the adolescent life, to every age group depending on information relevant to their ages.
There are various things you can cover.
First are facts about human anatomy, reproductive health, and human development. You can go deeper on topics like contraception, consent, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and childbirth.
Apart from pumping the youth with information, it is good to nurture positive values regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Such values are based on relationships, culture, gender roles, sexual abuse, and human rights. It is what I refer to as holistic sexuality education.
With these kind of knowledge, our young people will develop skills like critical thinking, communication, responsible decision making, and self-esteem.
Talking to children about sex is not an easy task.
If you are keen on the news an social media, there have been so many cases of early pregnancies, sexual assault cases, kidnappings, deaths, and sexually transmitted diseases.
This means that the one talk you gave your children about the birds and the bees is not enough. You should have an ongoing talk frequently according to the age they are in.
Ideally, children will get all of the information they need at home from their parents, but school should also be an important source of information.
Here is why:
There has been a huge debate in the past about providing condoms in school and teaching contraception to teenagers.
It has been said that giving these options will make them promiscuous.
To be honest, teaching comprehensive sex education doesn’t have the downside most people are afraid of.
Providing these options does not encourage adolescents to start having sex earlier, it only helps them be safe in case they choose to have sex.
In this generation, they are already having sex at a very early age so it is good that they have safe sex.
There have been so many efforts to curb teenage pregnancies but you have seen how the numbers have risen recently especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poverty is one of the primary causes of teenage pregnancies but so is a lack of sex education.
Immediately your child starts becoming eager and curious about their body, you should start educating them right there and continue throughout each stage of their lives.
Abstaining from sex before marriage is a tradition that the current generation does not hold in high regard.
As a parent, you have to accept this hard truth and talk to your children about protecting themselves, making informed decisions, and keeping healthier sexualities.
If you feel like “No! my child will abstain from sex”, which is admirable, you are still not exempted from teaching them about sex.
They too need sex education. If a child grows being well informed, he or she will be empowered by that information and will respect people’s opinions and sexualities.
Furthermore, your child will not source information from their peers or the internet. We all know these sources are not reliable because of misinformation.
Do you know why you hear teenagers having oral sex and anal sex instead of vaginal sex?
It is because they do not have accurate information about alternative sexual behaviors.
Young people think that oral sex is incompatible with abstinence because abstinence involves vaginal intercourse so they believe.
With a comprehensive sex education approach, teenagers will be more informed about participating in alternative sexual behaviors instead of falsely assuming these alternatives are safe.
If we do not teach sex education, we will have generations that are completely unequipped to advocate for their bodily autonomy and are extremely ashamed about any sexuality that they’ve experienced.
We will fail generations of women when we set them up to be hurt, and we failed those generations of men when we fed them toxic masculinity instead of teaching them about consent and pleasure for all bodies.
If we’re to move forward, we need to find a way to build systems that educate and protect. What Do you think?
Across the world, due to the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), children are affected by physical distancing, quarantines and nationwide school closures.
I am sure most of your children and youth may be feeling more isolated, anxious, bored and uncertain.
They may feel fear, and grief, over the impact of the virus on their families.
I have really been working hard to find content that will help open the world of isolation.
Watch out for resources and ideas to support parents and projects that will engage children in understanding the coronavirus, the challenges it brings to their world and what can be done to protect them.
I have also done a previous blog about how you can spark a meaningful conversation about coronavirus with your children.
To help parents interact constructively with their children during this time of confinement, I have shared below very simple but constructive tips you can use while parenting during this period.
I have these six one-page tips that I outsourced from WHO for parents.
They cover the following:
I hope this information helps in one way or another in helping your little ones cope during this confusing period. Feel free to click on the Links on the Infographics to learn more.
Have an amazing weekend!!
INCASE YOU MISSED IT:
Families all over the world have to adopt new changes and routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Children can no longer go to school, Parents cannot go to work, all businesses are closed, and public gatherings have all been restricted.
Parents and caregivers are therefore forced to help their families adjust to the new normal.
I am sure as a parent you are struggling to keep your children occupied and safe during this trying period.
I understand, keeping children busy and helping them keep up with school work is not easy.
However, you should remember that our children look up to us especially on how we react to stressful situations.
I am sure our kids are confused about why they are not in school and why they are not allowed to go outside and play with their friends.
Many parents are wondering how to bring up the epidemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already may be.
Here is some advice on how you can start the conversation about coronavirus.
Your child has already heard about the virus or has seen people wearing facemasks and the constant washing of hands and sanitizing.
Do not be afraid to talk to them about it because keeping them in the dark will actually make them worry more. Summarize the most important facts that they should know.
This will be so reassuring and at least they are more likely to understand better when it comes from you as opposed to hearing it from the news and friends.
Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming.
Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.
Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about the coronavirus, and how they feel.
Give them ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions.
Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus.
If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions.
Children are very egocentric, so hearing about the coronavirus on the news may be enough to make them seriously worry that they’ll catch it.
It’s helpful to reassure your child about how rare the coronavirus actually is (the flu is much more common) and that kids actually seem to have milder symptoms.
An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking.
Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.
For example, you can tell them that the coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces and that they should thoroughly wash their hands as the primary means of staying healthy.
So remind kids that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom.
If kids ask about face masks, explain that the experts say they aren’t necessary for most people.
If kids see people wearing face masks, explain that those people are being extra cautious.
Children probably don’t fully understand why parents/guardians aren’t allowing them to be with friends.
Tell your child that your family is following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include social distancing.
Social distancing means staying away from others until the risk of contracting COVID-19 is under control. Showing older children the “flatten the curve” charts will help them grasp the significance of social distancing.
Explain that while we don’t know how long it will take to “flatten the curve” to reduce the number of those infected, we do know that this is a critical time—we must follow the guidelines of health experts to do our part.
Nobody likes uncertainty, so staying rooted in routines and predictability is going to be helpful right now.
This is particularly important if your child’s school or daycare shuts down.
Make sure you are taking care of the basics just like you would during a school break.
Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy.
Having a Conversation is very important.
However, you can use this opportunity to teach your children life skills they don’t learn in school.
The following are skills you can teach your children during this self-isolation period.
A crisis like a coronavirus can evoke feelings of anxiety and fear.
Parents can turn this around and model a sense of hope and positivity.
Teaching children emotional resilience can help them learn the areas of life they can control in uncertain times.
We can teach them resilience by how we control our attitude, how we are kind to others, how we control consumption and spending too.
Showing children that they are privileged and should be very grateful for what they have is important too.
Parents could view this time to provide children with the “ultimate training ground,” giving them an early start to learning life skills for when they no longer live at home.
Restrictions are now in place around the world, limiting how often people can leave the house to visit shops, for example, as part of efforts to reduce outside human contact and curb the further spread of COVID-19.
Signs have also appeared in many shops, rationing the number of certain products people can buy at one time, to combat the panic stockpiling that has taken place amid increasing fears about the pandemic.
At home, however, this offers the opportunity to teach children about rationing, cooking, and budgeting for food.
Fun activities like playing games, sewing, knitting, and gardening, like some other skills that can help children to become more self-sufficient.
Parents can take this opportunity to teach children about money. Budgeting and saving can teach children how money can grow over time. Do not underestimate the ability of children to understand and engage with finances.
Since we are spending a lot of time cooped up inside, this is a good time to teach children about online safety.
They will be online a lot trying to keep themselves occupied and so it is good that we start teaching them how to navigate the digital world safely.
You could also teach children how to use their digital skills more altruistically, to connect with the wider community during self-isolation, or even entrepreneurially.
I hope these tips will help you remain sane during this global pandemic. While we all ride out the corona storm, wherever you are located, the Protect A Girls’ Image team wishes you, and your families good health. Remember, we’re in this together, and we’ll come out of this together! Lots of Love!!
Easter holiday is around the corner and it is an exciting time for family get-togethers, yummy food, sweet traditions, funny stories, and lots and lots of love.
Have you ever found yourself telling your child, “Uncle just got here—go give him a big hug!” or “Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,” This means that you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own and that is why you urged them to do this.
If you have said this to your child before, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.
Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.
“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” says Girl Scouts Organization- developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older.
Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
Give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection.
Of course, many children may naturally want to hug and kiss family members, friends, and neighbors, and that’s lovely—but if your daughter is reticent, consider letting her choose what to do.
Of course, this doesn’t give her license to be rude!
There are many other ways to show appreciation, thankfulness, and love that don’t require physical contact.
RELATED CONTENT: 6 Tips on How To Nurture a Child’s Mental Health.
Saying how much she’s missed someone or thank you with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss are all ways she can express herself, and it’s important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her.
Is it ok to hug a kid that doesn’t want to be hugged? No, it isn’t.
I know you might get offended by the sheer suggestion that kids should have a say in whether they want to be hugged or not. What you might not know is that a small act of respecting a kid’s wishes can go a long way in shaping their understanding of consent, enables them to respect their own body and emboldens them to say no.
It remains irrelevant if the hug or, for that matter, any other form of expression of affection, is non-sexual. It also doesn’t even have to be an exchange between an adult and a child.
Parents can teach their kids about boundaries and consent when it comes to expressing affection or even physical contact.
In a largely patriarchal world, it would go a long way in teaching boys, early on in their lives, that they are not entitled to any affection from any gender.
A loved one expecting a hug from a child creates the impression that they owe it to them. A majority of the abusive relationships stem from an imbalance of power where one person is made to feel like they owe affection to their partner.
Some of you might wave away this concern and accuse us of blowing an innocent family interaction out of proportion. But I think this has long been a (very controversial) topic in parenting circles.
After CNN’s Katia Hetter wrote an article advocating for such a practice in 2015, readers responded with various opinions. Some shared difficult stories from their childhood that they carried with them well into their adult years. For Example:
“I raised my children this way over 20 years ago. Why did we do this? Because I had been a victim of sexual abuse by a family ‘friend’ for many years as a child. I did not want my children to think they had to hug or touch others unless the contact was wanted,” one reader wrote.
Others didn’t understand the big deal and argued that family obligation sometimes means doing uncomfortable things.
“You’re damn right you’re going to hug the woman who gave your mother/father life so you could have life,” another reader wrote.
That said, think about it the next time you want to urge your child to hug or kiss anyone.
I know sometimes as parents we do things to our children without even realizing it, but it is time to do better and not let our sons and daughter get the wrong idea about consent and physical affection.
Enjoy Your Easter Holidays!!!
INCASE YOU MISSED IT:
If you had one wish for your children, what would it be? For me, I always think about how I want my children to be happy and strong physically and emotionally.
As the children we care for at Protect A Girls’ Image get older and more submerged into the world around them, I often find myself hard-pressed on how well they will be able to cope after they grow up and leave their rural homes.
February 3rd to February 9th was Child’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a topic near and dear to my heart. During that week I kept asking myself, Have we really prepared these children for the trials and tribulations of life that is to come? Have we implemented all the tools necessary to ensure a happy life for them?
Surely we can’t guarantee their happiness, but we can give them a strong foundation for their mental health – and that could be everything. Sometimes happiness sounds a lot like the main components of mental health.
As a parent, you can really get overwhelmed by scary statistics about how children are having mental health issues all over the world. The Good news is you have great power when it comes to nurturing your children’s mental health.
One in four Kenyans is likely to suffer from a mental illness at some point in their life and they will find it difficult to get the healthcare they need, reveals a Nation Newsplex investigation.
The review of mental health data also finds that the suicide rate for men is three times higher than the rate for women. Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the suicide rate per 100,000 people in Kenya is seven, with the rate for men being 11 and women three.
Mental health issues can affect youth at any age. But certain situations can place some young people at a higher risk, including:
Unfortunately, too many children and youth don’t get help soon enough. Mental health disorders can prevent children and youth from succeeding in school, from making friends, or becoming independent from their parents.
Children and youth with mental health disorders may have trouble reaching their developmental milestones.
The good news is that mental health disorders are treatable. There are many different approaches to helping children and youth struggling with emotional or mental health problems.
Getting help early is important. It can prevent problems from becoming more serious and can lessen the effect they have on your child’s development.
All children and youth are different. If you’re concerned your child may have a problem, look at whether there are changes in the way they think, feel or act.
Mental health problems can also lead to physical changes. Ask yourself how your child is doing at home, at school, and with friends.
Remember: Just because you notice one or more of these changes does not mean your child or youth has a mental health problem.
As an advocate for mental health, I want to share tips on how you can help nurture children’s mental health. Here are just a few :
Helping your children develop strong self-esteem so that they feel good about themselves is very important. You should create a sense of safety and security by building confidence in their abilities. You can do this by;
Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life – so be sure to lead by example the best strategies regarding self-care, healthy social interactions, communication, and emotional stability.
Do not underestimate how much creating healthy habits at home can impact a child. Make sure your child is getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and getting enough playtime. So what more can you do?
A strong relationship consists of communication, respect, trust, problem solving and affection. Healthy relationships share common goals and responsibilities as well as acceptance and commitment. Further, strong relationships will promote resilience which is the ability to tolerate difficult situations in positive ways. This is what you can do;
RELATED CONTENT: Tips on How Parents Can Help Children who have Experienced Trauma.
Listen to how your child is feeling and validate their emotions. Guide your child through big feelings and show them important coping mechanisms and ways to manage challenges (like meditation). Teach them the importance of expressing their emotions through language. You should know that;
Finally, children require direction on learning to relax and self-soothe; talking, quiet activity, walking and alone time are all healthy reactions to stressful situations. In difficult situations, you can help children and youth by;
There are many ways to help your child achieve good mental health. Sharing your concerns with the doctor is one of them. Talk to your child’s doctor:
INCASE YOU MISSED IT: Catcalling is Not a Compliment, It’s Harassment.
Good mental health is essential to overall health in every child. When you strengthen your child’s mental health not only are you positively affecting how your child thinks feels and behaves, you are increasing their chances of success in school, with peers, and in life.
These guidelines aren’t just for children either, but are important for everyone looking to take care of their mental health! If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read this post on how you can teach your child about sex and consent at every age.
As much as parents try to keep their children safe, it is not always possible be to protect them from impending traumatic experiences. In the wake of a traumatic event, your comfort, support and reassurance as a parent can make children feel safe, help them manage their fears, guide them through their grief, and help them recover in a healthy way.
Before I get into it, let us first be clear what trauma is.
Trauma is an emotional response to an intense event that threatens or causes harm. The harm can be physical or emotional, real or perceived, and it can threaten the child or someone close to him or her. Trauma can be the result of a single event, or it can result from exposure to multiple events over time.
Potentially traumatic events may include:
The intense, confusing, and frightening emotions that follow a traumatic event or natural disaster can be even more pronounced in children and teens. Such events can undermine their sense of security, leaving them feeling helpless and vulnerable—especially if the event stemmed from an act of violence, such as a physical assault, mass shooting, or terrorist attack. Even kids or teens not directly affected by a disaster can become traumatized when repeatedly exposed to horrific images of the event on the news or social media.
2. Brains (Thinking)
3. Emotions (feeling)
It is important to remember two words when working with anyone experiencing trauma and hurt: “hope” and “encouragement.” This isn’t about telling someone they should paint over all their problems with happy thoughts. Instead, it is about offering a way out from the despair left over from trauma.
Talk to your child about what happened. There is no way to manage trauma without at least acknowledging that it happened. Most people are raised in homes where no one talks about “the elephant in the room.” But if you want to help a person heal from any type of hurt or trauma, it is important to discuss it.
Once you begin talking about difficult subjects, you give your child permission to as well. You are teaching them it is okay to talk about these things.
Reassure your child. The event was not their fault, you love them, and it’s OK for them to feel upset, angry, or scared.
Don’t pressure your child into talking. It can be very difficult for some kids to talk about a traumatic experience. A young child may find it easier to draw a picture illustrating their feelings rather than talk about them. You can then talk with your child about what they’ve drawn.
Be honest. While you should tailor the information you share according to your child’s age, honesty is important. Don’t say nothing’s wrong if something is wrong.
Do “normal” activities with your child that have nothing to do with the traumatic event. Encourage your child to seek out friends and pursue games, sports, and hobbies that they enjoyed before the incident. Go on family outings to the park or beach, enjoy a games night, or watch a funny or uplifting movie together.
Physical activity can burn off adrenaline, release mood-enhancing endorphins, and help your child sleep better at night.
Find a sport that your child enjoys. Activities such as basketball, soccer, running, martial arts, or swimming that require moving both the arms and legs can help rouse your child’s nervous system from that “stuck” feeling that often follows a traumatic experience.
Offer to participate in sports, games, or physical activities with your child. If they seem resistant to get off the couch, play some of their favorite music and dance together. Once a child gets moving, they’ll start to feel more energetic.
Encourage your child to go outside to play with friends or a pet and blow off steam.
Schedule a family outing to a hiking trail, swimming pool, or park.
Take younger children to a playground, activity center, or arrange play dates.
Children are often impressionable. It is so easy to teach a child that they cannot trust themselves. Particularly in abusive homes, children are taught not to feel or to think on their own. They are usually taught to do what their parent says without question and to overlook their own experiences.
Teaching a child to trust their intuition is not overly difficult, though it often takes time. Start by having a discussion with your child about how important it is to trust one’s own inner voice, or conscience. Continue asking your child how they feel about certain experiences. This act will help your child learn that to look inside is an important aspect of life.
Children who’ve experienced a traumatic event can often find relentless media coverage to be further traumatizing. Excessive exposure to images of a disturbing event—such as repeatedly viewing video clips on social media or news sites—can even create traumatic stress in children or teens who were not directly affected by the event.
Limit your child’s media exposure to the traumatic event. Don’t let your child watch the news or check social media just before bed, and make use of parental controls on the TV, computer, and tablet to prevent your child from repeatedly viewing disturbing footage.
As much as you can, watch news reports of the traumatic event with your child. You can reassure your child as you’re watching and help place information in context.
Avoid exposing your child to graphic images and videos. It’s often less traumatizing for a child or teen to read the newspaper rather than watch television coverage or view video clips of the event.
Most children (and really, most adults) are not taught how to grieve. Most people are taught “Don’t cry,” “Keep difficult emotions to yourself,” “Be strong,” “Move on,” and other similar methods of coping with loss. When working with emotionally injured children, you can best help them by not only teaching them how to talk about their feelings, but also about how to grieve.
How do you do this? There are a couple of ways:
One is through personal example. Here, you demonstrate your own grief about something.
Another is when you ask your child questions, such as, “What do you miss about so-and-so?” Or, “If you could talk to so-and-so, what would you say?” Try to ask open-ended questions that generate feelings.
Grieving involves processing through feelings until they are complete. Children need not analyze this concept. They just need permission to talk, cry, be angry, and express their emotions until they are done. Grief is finished when it’s finished. There is no timeline for grief, and everyone processes emotions on their own schedule. Talk to your child about these concepts and give them permission to “process” through any feelings at their own pace.
The food your child eats can have a profound impact on their mood and ability to cope with traumatic stress. Processed and convenience food, sugary foods and snacks can create mood swings and worsen symptoms of traumatic stress. Conversely, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help your child better cope with the ups and downs that follow a disturbing experience.
Focus on overall diet rather than specific foods. Kids should be eating whole, minimally processed food—food that is as close to its natural form as possible.
Limit fried food, sweet desserts, sugary snacks and cereals, and refined flour. These can all exacerbate symptoms of traumatic stress in kids.
Be a role model. The childhood impulse to imitate is strong so don’t ask your child to eat vegetables while you gorge on soda and French fries.
Cook more meals at home. Restaurant and takeout meals have more added sugar and unhealthy fat so cooking at home can have a huge impact on your kids’ health. If you make large batches, cooking just a few times can be enough to feed your family for the whole week.
Make mealtimes about more than just food. Gathering the family around a table for a meal is an ideal opportunity to talk and listen to your child without the distraction of TV, phones, or computers.
One important topic you can introduce to your child is the concept of boundaries. Boundaries can be physical and emotional. Physical boundaries include a person’s body and physical space. Emotional boundaries include how a person is treated emotionally, mentally, and psychologically.
Art is one effective intervention for teaching children this concept. You can draw a picture of a line, wall, or some type of boundary indicator. On one side of the line, write down attributes of healthy boundaries, such as, “respect,” or “does not touch me in a way that is unsafe.” On the “boundary violation” side of the barrier, write a list of unhealthy boundary violators, such as “name calling,” or “yelling.” You and your child can create this drawing together.
Of course, you will need to use age-appropriate language. The main concern is to teach your child emotional intelligence and about how to protect themselves from unsafe relationships.
Teach your child that it is okay to talk about difficult memories. Explain that they have a “hurt self” that needs to be healed. In addition, let your child know they aren’t only hurt, but that they also have a “healthy self” or “strong self” capable of overcoming hard things. The strong self will help heal the hurt self.
To help your child identify what is hurt, you can ask questions about thoughts, fears, feelings, and dreams. See if your child can identify how they experience the pain from the trauma they have endured. If your child is not interested in going that deep, just talk to them. Say, “I know you are hurt. Here are some suggestions for helping yourself heal.”
It is helpful for parents and other significant leaders in a child’s life to learn how to teach them important life lessons, especially those involving emotions. Since most people generally do not understand emotional health, this can prove challenging—mainly, because most people haven’t been taught themselves.
I recommend drawing two pictures for your child: one a hurt child, and one a healthy child. The hurt child could look sad and have tears. The strong child could look steadfast and concerned. Teach your child that these two “parts of self” exist within them, and that their job is to learn how to nurture and heal the hurt part of the self.
Trauma can alter the way a child sees the world, making it suddenly seem a much more dangerous and frightening place. Your child may find it more difficult to trust both their environment and other people. You can help by rebuilding your child’s sense of safety and security.
Create routines. Establishing a predictable structure and schedule to your child’s or teen’s life can help to make the world seem more stable again. Try to maintain regular times for meals, homework, and family activities.
Minimize stress at home. Try to make sure your child has space and time for rest, play, and fun.
Manage your own stress. The more calm, relaxed and focused you are, the better you’ll be able to help your child.
Speak of the future and make plans. This can help counteract the common feeling among traumatized children that the future is scary, bleak, and unpredictable.
Keep your promises. You can help to rebuild your child’s trust by being trustworthy. Be consistent and follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to admit it. Don’t jeopardize your child’s trust in you by making something up.
Remember that children often personalize situations. They may worry about their own safety even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure your child and help place the situation in context.
Help your child identify things they tell themselves about life or personal identity. Beliefs children often have when hurt tend to be very personalized; beliefs such as, “I am unlovable,” “The world is not safe,” or “I will never be happy again.” Any type of negative, devaluing belief can be ingrained in a child’s head for years, decades, or even a lifetime. It is beneficial to help your child identify these beliefs early on.
Have your child write down a list of unhealthy beliefs. Some include thoughts such as, “If I were a better child, my mother would not be on drugs,” “If I were thinner, my friend would not have rejected me,” or “I need to be a perfect student to have a good life.” If your child is old enough, work with them to identify unhealthy beliefs.
Once these unhealthy thoughts have been identified, make a list of helpful, healing beliefs for your child to replace the unhealthy thoughts. After this, remind your child to replace the unhealthy beliefs with the healthy beliefs. Make sure they understand this process is building an essential inner recovery “muscle” and will require practice to develop.
Usually, your child’s feelings of anxiety, numbness, confusion, guilt, and despair following a traumatic event will start to fade within a relatively short time. However, if the traumatic stress reaction is so intense and persistent that it’s interfering with your child’s ability to function at school or home, they may need help from a mental health professional—preferably a trauma specialist.
Warning signs include:
When children experience abuse, abandonment or other deep hurts, the adults in their lives may not know how to help them. Many people believe topics like psychological healing only belong to the professionals. But “professionals,” however helpful they may be, do not have enough time to impact children in the same way as those who are involved with them daily.
Whatever the age of your child, it’s important to offer extra reassurance and support following a traumatic event. A child’s reaction to a disaster or trauma can be greatly influenced by their parents’ response, so it’s important to educate yourself about trauma and traumatic stress. The more you know about the symptoms, effects, and treatment options, the better equipped you’ll be to help your child recover. With your love and support, the unsettling thoughts and feelings of traumatic stress can start to fade and your child’s life can return to normal in the days or weeks following the event.