Tip Sheet Tuesday: Working with Children Who Have Been Traumatized

As caregivers, we often care for kids who may have experienced the trauma of physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.

While experiencing or witnessing physical or sexual abuse is a common source of trauma for children, the emotional turmoil of being removed from their parental home is additionally traumatic and stressful. When we as caregivers, therapists, and school staff have an understanding of the trauma and its effect on learning and processing, children in our care have a better chance to overcome their past.

Working with Children Who Have Been TraumatizedRecognizing Symptoms
Emotional, behavioral, and physical delays may be noted in traumatized children. The brain development is altered, resulting in children having difficulty controlling emotions and behavior.

In reaction to chronic abuse, a hyper-arousal response in the brain may cause persistent stress. Abused and neglected children may become wired to experience the world as an uncaring place. They may recreate the traumatic event or experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Aggression
  • Withdrawal
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent levels of fear

You should contact a mental health professional if your children experience the following symptoms:

  • Flashbacks
  • Episodes of being easily startled
  • Emotional numbness
  • Episodes of a racing heart and sweating (unrelated to exercise)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Finding a therapist that you and your children trust is imperative when working with kids who have PTSD and other trauma—as much for your own sake as for the sake of your children. Continue reading on our website.


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