5 Steps To Helping Young Trauma Survivors

How do you help young violence victims, who may or may not even fully comprehend the less than positive experience they’ve survived?

Helping children begins at the scene of the event. It may need to continue for weeks or months. Most children recover within a few weeks. Some need help longer. Grief (a deep emotional response to loss) may take months to resolve. It could be for a loved one or a teacher. It could be for a friend or pet. Grief may be re-experienced or worsened by news reports or the event’s anniversary.

Some children may need help from a mental health professional. Some people may seek other kinds of help. They may turn to religious leaders. They may turn to community leaders.

Identify children who need the most support. Help them obtain it. Monitor their healing.

Step 1: Identify children who…

  • Refuse to go places that remind them of the event
  • Seem numb emotionally
  • Show little reaction to the event
  • Behave dangerously

These children may need extra help.

Step 2: In general, adults should…

  • Attend to children
  • Listen to them
  • Understanding to their feelings, and avoid making judgments/being negative
  • Help them cope with the reality of their experiences

Step 3: Reduce effects of other sources of stress, including…

  • Frequent moving or changes in place of residence
  • Long periods away from family and friends
  • Pressures at school
  • Transportation problems
  • Fighting within the family
  • Being hungry/not having other fundamental needs met

Step 4: Monitor healing…

  • Always remember that healing from traumatic experiences can take very different amounts of time, depending on the person and the nature of the ordeal.
  • Do not ignore severe reactions to trauma, and know when to reach out for additional help, such as other family members or a healthcare professional.
  • Be on the lookout for sudden changes in behavior, speech, language use, or heightened emotional states.

Step 5: Remind children that….

  • They are loved
  • They are safe
  • They are supported