Many parents would agree that a primary goal of parenting your child is to encourage them to grow to their fullest potential and thrive in a world that may not always be easy. While parents may work to give their children better lives than what they may have had, certain triggers, environmental factors, and or life altering events can have a traumatic and lasting impacts on children.
Each child handles and processes through traumatic events differently and age and developmental milestones can all play a role in how this plays out in their lives.

For children in early preschool or early elementary, traumatic events may leave them feeling helpless, afraid of future danger, a general sense of fear about everyday life, and difficulty expressing and understanding how they are feeling emotionally and what is bothering them. For these children, tasks that used to be simple for them to complete may become more complicated. The children may show increased signs of anxiety, difficulty sleeping, clinginess toward parental figures, hesitation to explore, changes in speech or toileting behaviors, and nightmares.

For elementary school children, a persistent fear of safety for themselves and those they care about may be displayed. They may express feelings of guilt or shame concerning their actions during the event. These children may express feeling of fear or sadness and commonly engage in the retelling of their traumatic event to process the details. Like younger children, these kids may also display difficulties sleeping, fear of sleeping alone, or have nightmares. These children may show school related disturbances including difficulty concentrating and keeping up with school work. Additionally, they may experience headaches, stomach aches, and even aggressive or impulsive behavior.

For adolescents exposed to a traumatic event, we see changes in their self-worth as they begin to display self-conscious behavior, worries of being labeled as different, fearful thoughts, concern with vulnerability, and persistent worry as being seen as "different" or "not normal". As a result, adolescents may withdraw from those they love, often leading to feelings of guilt and shame. These individuals may begin to engage in self-destructive and impulsive behaviors that isolate and endanger them further.
Advice from the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network
For younger children, parents can offer invaluable support, by providing comfort, rest and an opportunity to play or draw. Parents can be available to provide reassurance that the traumatic events is over and that the children are safe. It is helpful for parents, family, and teachers to help children verbalize their feelings so that they don't feel alone with their emotions. Providing consistent care taking by ensuring that children are picked up from school at the anticipated time and by informing children of parents' whereabouts can provide a sense of security for children who have recently experienced a traumatic event. Parents, family caregivers and teachers may need to tolerate regression in developmental tasks for a period of time following a traumatic event.
Older children will also need encouragement to express fears, sadness and anger in the supportive environment of the family. These school-age children may need to be encouraged to discuss their worries with family members. It is important to acknowledge the normality of their feelings and to correct any distortions of the traumatic events that they express. Parents can be invaluable in supporting their children in reporting to teachers hen their thoughts and feelings are getting in the way of concentrating and learning.
For adolescents, who have experienced a traumatic event, the family can encourage discussion of the event and feelings about it and expectations of what could have been done to prevent the event. Parents can discuss the expectable strain on relationships with family and peers, and offer support in these challenges. It may be important to help adolescents understand "acting out" behavior as an effort to voice anger about traumatic events. It may also be important to discuss thoughts o revenge following an act of violence, address realistic consequences of actions, and help formulate constructive alternatives that lessen the sense of helplessness the adolescents may be experiencing.
Although parenting is never a one size fits all solution, there is strong support for some of the techniques below that have been taken from the book, Treating Trauma and Traumatic Grief in Children and Adolescents.

PRAISE is a positive technique that comes from the idea that children and adolescents receive a lot of negative feedback on a daily basis. PRAISE should be used when your child is doing something that you want to encourage them to do more of, such a taking out the trash, doing their homework, etc. PRAISE is an acronym that can be broken down into 6 parts:

Provide purely positive praise.
  • This means that praise should not include additional criticism to a child's behavior. For example: "Thank you for doing your homework... I wish you always did your homework on time" would be an ineffective praise. A more appropriate way to handle this situation is to eliminate the criticism for more wishful behavior, such as "Thank you for doing your homework. That is awesome!"
Repeat praise consistently for new behaviors.
  • As often as you catch positive behavior, it is important to use purely positive praise right away.
Acknowledge small steps toward positive behaviors.
  • For example, if you are wanting your child to work on their homework, praise them when they sit down to do it, when they take out their homework, when they try one problem, etc.
Intermittently offer praise to maintain established positive behaviors.
  • This step in done once your child has established new behaviors. Begin praising your child at irregular intervals. This actually increases the chances of your child continuing the behavior they learned.
Specify the type of behavior you are encouraging.
  • It is vital to be specific in your praise. For example, instead of saying "Good job today", you can elaborate by saying, "Thank you for completing your homework, and helping me clean up after dinner." Again, this specific praise will increase the chances of your child continuing appropriate behavior. 
Enthusiastically praise specific behavior for optimal impact.
  • Too often parents do no provide praise at the same level they provide criticism. Children need to understand that the praise is more valuable than the criticism. You can do this by being enthusiastic, in your voice, and behavior, when you praise your child.
Selective Attention
 Selective Attention is useful when you are wanting to eliminate a negative behavior your child is doing and increase positive behaviors. A common annoyance of parents is when their child is throwing a temper tantrum. Through Selective Attention, when your child is throwing a temper tantrum, you would ignore the negative behavior (screaming, kicking, etc.). This means that your child will not receive any of your attention until they have calmed down. Once your child has calmed down, you can continue to give them attention as usual. Although this is an excellent technique in eliminating negative behaviors, it should not be done if there is risk of your child injuring themselves or others when they are upset. This should be done in an environment where you know your child, and others will be safe. Another caveat to Selective Attention is that it is often accompanied by extinction burst. This means the behavior will become more extreme before your child calms down. This is because your child is trying to test your limits, and see if they can ultimately get you to give them the attention they desire. Therefore, it is important for you, as the parent, to stand strong in your commitment.

One final technique to parenting is using a time out. Many parents are familiar with time outs, and have used them before. The main goals of using a time out are to "(1) interrupt the child's negative behaviors and thus allow him/her to regain emotional and behavioral control;and (2) deprive the child of the opportunity to receive any type of attention."

There are different ways to adapt the time out procedure, but there are a few common standards. It is important to explain to your child how time out will work before any negative behaviors have occurred. In addition, the time out spot should not be reinforcing at all to the child. This means the child should be sitting in a corner in front of a blank wall. A times should be kept, and begin once the child is no longer showing negative behaviors. Finally, once the time out is over, it is important to interact positively with your child to show them they have done a good job in listening to you.
Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel
A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman & Joan Declaire
Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline
Parenting Teens with Love and Logic by Foster Cline

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