Exhibiting a strong reaction is the first step toward healing from trauma.
So, after a distressing incident, like a sudden death in the family, or an accident, if you notice any behavioral changes in your teenager, allow them to let it out. They are bound to experience physical, psychological, and emotional distress, which may disrupt their daily functions or make them behave violently.
As parents, besides giving them unconditional love and support, you must educate yourself on the right ways to deal with teenagers’ trauma. From choosing the right treatment to knowing what to do in the case of a PTSD episode, here’s how you can support your child through their road to recovery.
What Is Trauma?
Usually, when we think of trauma or PTSD, we imagine military personnel and war veterans. Of course, not many can compare to the distress that they went through, but trauma can also stem from frightening events in childhood and one’s teenage years, like abuse, sexual assault, etc.
And while trauma can occur at any age, children are more prone to suffering from its long-term effects. As such, some of the effects of trauma on health are listed below:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Feeling suicidal
- Substance abuse
- Chain smoking
- Becoming more prone to sexually-transmitted infections
Biology Of Traumatic Stress
Much research is being conducted to understand the causes of PTSD. As such, a trauma expert at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Samuel McLean, is studying the symptoms of PTSD and how they affect one’s brain. The research involves looking into the life history of trauma survivors, analyzing their genetics, and more.
Notably, the team of researchers uses smartphone apps and smart watches to identify the body’s response to trauma while performing daily activities.
6 Ways To Help Your Teenager Who Is Struggling With Trauma
- Talk And Hear Them Out
Talk it out – while it may sound simple, uncovering a teenager’s trauma through the power of speech is often a Herculean task. Until and unless they feel safe about your company and the environment, they will never feel comfortable enough to talk about their experience and let out their emotions.
One way you can encourage open communication is by talking about your own experiences with them. Or, talk to your partner or another adult with your child in the vicinity. Let them know that it’s okay to be vulnerable and talk about the harsh realities of life.
Show them that expressing grief, anger, and distress does not make them “weak” or “bad.” These feelings are only natural, and venting them out will work wonders for their recovery.
Also, if your teenager reacts differently or says something you may not agree with, do not reprimand them. Any and all types of reactions and emotions are valid when dealing with trauma. Just respect their beliefs and hear them out.
- Patience Is A Virtue
Trauma can result in difficult and strong emotions, behavior, mood swings, sensitivity, etc. In such times, cut them some slack. If they become rebellious, try discussing the situation at hand and negotiating ways for them to “live their own life” while maintaining discipline.
On that note, sometimes your teenager may seem to be agitated or not require your intervention. They may prefer talking to their friends over you. Again, give them time and let them know that you’re always ready whenever they want to talk.
On the contrary, some teenagers may become clingy, so give them all the love and affection that they want. After all, your child is the same; they only seem different because of the trauma. Reassure them that their reaction is “normal” and “valid.”
- Help Them Gain Perspective
Trauma often makes teenagers feel like they are out of control. Their sense of security is in danger, and they begin to fear the unpredictability of life.
When these feelings become overwhelming, help them regain perspective by pointing out the cause and effect of the incident that triggered their trauma. For this, ensure that you get accurate and verified information from reliable sources only.
However, you must be careful not to go into too much detail if it’s not necessary. While it is important to paint the real picture for your child, you must balance it out to prevent any distress.
Balancing between too little and too much information is key. So, consider limiting their exposure to social media.
- Reassure Them That They’re Not Alone
According to studies, 14-43% of boys and 15-43% of girls experience at least one traumatic incident in their teens. Yet, your teen may feel alienated or “weird.”
Here, too, it is imperative to reassure them that they’re not alone and that you are always there to support them whenever they want. Although you may not know how to handle the situation effectively, showing your support and love can significantly help tone down their anxiety or stress.
- Research Their Treatment Options
Depending on your teenager’s unique requirements, you can choose from various options for treating trauma and PTSD. So, never stop your research and stay aware of any type of treatment that could open a new door to recovery for your child.
- Seek Professional Help
Knowing when to turn to a young adult counseling professional is crucial to ensure your teenager’s safety. So, if your child shows the following signs, it’s high time you should seek professional help:
- They behave recklessly, cause harm, or become dangerous
- They continue to show signs of depression and anxiety
- They indulge in reckless drinking, smoking, and drug abuse
- They refuse to communicate their feelings, whereabouts, etc.
- They do not show any signs of recovery
- They behave completely out of character, and you are unable to control or help them
- You are always worried about their condition
Sometimes we wish our heads could forget all that our eyes have seen. But we cannot turn back time, so acknowledging trauma, dealing with it, and healing is the only way forward.
As a parent, the least you can do is make your presence and support felt by your teenagers who have experienced trauma of some kind. You can also encourage them to try meditation, exercising, or eating healthy, as these activities can help reduce inflammatory responses and regulate stress levels.