For Parents & Caregivers
Dealing with Trauma
Parents and caregivers play a critical role in helping their children recover from a potentially traumatic event. While at Boost, parents and caregivers often report that they feel isolated and alone when discussing the challenges they experience supporting their children after a distressing event.
You are not alone. Other families have faced similar experiences. We can help you learn more about ways a traumatic event can impact a child or youth, and what Boost can do to help.
What is Trauma?
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines trauma as an event or series of events that involve fear or threat. Traumatic events can include: sexual abuse or sexual assault, physical abuse, witnessing domestic violence or community violence, natural disasters including a hurricane or flood, as well as the sudden and violent death of a loved one. Many children have experienced some form of trauma in their lives.
Common Reactions to Trauma
A number of factors will influence the range of reactions your child may or may not experience. Children may react to trauma in different ways including:
- Physical symptoms (may include difficulty sleeping, eating, headaches, stomach aches)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Staying away from places or things that remind them of the traumatic event
- Intense fear and worrying
- Intense sadness
- Remembering the traumatic event when seeing, hearing, or smelling something that reminds the child or youth about their experience
- Isolating oneself from family or friends
- Younger children may express their fears through play, or re-enact elements of the traumatic through play
These are normal responses to distressing experiences. However, they become a concern when they impact the young person’s day-to-day functioning. A comprehensive assessment at Boost will help clarify how your child has been impacted, and what type of help they will most benefit from.
How to Support Your Child Following a Traumatic Event
After trauma, it’s common for children and parents to have a tough time coping. Parents play a critical role in helping their child recover. Some suggestions:
- Let your child know you understand it will take time for them to feel better; give reassurance that they can and will improve.
- Your response to your child’s experience can impact how s/he copes. Your child may notice a sudden change in your mood – let your child know that you’re reacting to what’s happened, too.
- Young people cope with trauma in different ways. Try to be understanding about what your child may need to cope. Some will want to talk openly about their feelings, others would rather avoid discussing the trauma.
- As a family, offer each other emotional support, through physical comfort, understanding and reassurance. Re-establish predictable and consistent routines within the family, soothing night time practices, all the while reassuring your child that you love and support them.
- It’s common for children to blame themselves following a traumatic event. Reassure your child that he or she is not responsible for the traumatic event.
Getting Your Own Support
If adults don’t have their own supports in place, they may experience greater challenges helping their child. Below is a list of agencies that provide individual and/or group support for parents. For a more extensive list please visit www.211toronto.ca.
Support for Parents (Individual or Group)
West End Sexual Abuse Treatment Program (WESAT)
Caregiver Support Group – for parents whose children have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault
Adult Support Groups, Adult Support Network, Referrals to other services
Scarborough Agencies Sexual Abuse Treatment Program (SASAT)
Caregiver support for parents whose children have experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault
Family Service Association of Toronto
Individual, couple and family counseling
Catholic Family Services of Toronto
Individual, couple and family counseling
Individual and family counselling. Services provided to the Portuguese community
COSTI Immigrant Services
Individual and family Counselling
Parent Distress Line
Assaulted Women’s Help Line
Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
Native Child & Family Services
Jewish Family & Child
Resources For Parents and Caregivers
When Your Child Has Been Molested: A Parent’s Guide To Healing and Recovery
Kathyrn Hagas Brohl & Joyce Potter Case
Children and Trauma: A Parents Guide to Helping Children Heal
Sex Spelled Out For Parents
Helping Children with Sexual Behaviour Problems: a Guidebook For Parents and Substitute Caregivers.
Tori Cavanaugh Johnson
Let’s Talk About Sex: A Guide for Kids 9 to 12 and their Parents.
Sam Gitchel & Lorri Foster
National Child Traumatic Stress Network