Traumatic experiences in children are surprisingly common, with over 60% of teenagers ages 14-17 having experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. These events can be described as distressing experiences that result in long-term negative impacts on physical and emotional well-being. If your child has suffered through a traumatic experience, understanding how to start the healing journey is a crucial first step toward lasting change.
Strategies and tips for helping teens heal from trauma
There are many warning signs to look for if you worry your teen may be struggling with childhood trauma. Some of the most common indicators include frequent nightmares, intense mood swings, avoidance of feelings, social problems, frequent headaches/stomachaches, struggling to focus on schoolwork, and impulsive or risky behavior including alcohol/drug experimentation. For teens struggling with trauma, there are many strategies you can try to help them on their healing journey.
Start with making your teen feel safe again. Traumatic experiences often take the feeling of being safe away from its victims so even if your teen may resist vulnerability and act like they are doing fine, creating a loving environment can help them to feel secure. A connection is key in helping teens overcome trauma, and your teen should know you are there for them to lean on both physically and emotionally.
After a safe space has been created, only intervene in your teen’s behavior when necessary. Not at all battles are worth fighting and a teen’s developing brain, particularly one that has been affected by trauma, can translate intervention into a threat to the safety they’ve established. Instead, ask yourself is this specific intervention necessary, will it help fuel connection and learning, and will it prevent a larger problem later on? Assuming the behavior isn’t dangerous to your teen or those around them, take a step back and allow your teen to use the decision-making tools you’ve provided to them rather than trying to jump in and fix the situation.
Work as a team with your teen to best help them overcome trauma by allowing them to be an active participant in a healing journey. This can include letting them weigh in on consequences, activities, and treatment options by giving two or more choices that you’ve pre-approved. Trauma can impact a teen’s ability to integrate feelings and thoughts, so often a teen’s behavior is a direct way of communicating a negative emotion they’ve experienced. In these moments, ask your child to share what occurred, what they need, and what alternative options are available to them next time this occurs.
Healing from trauma is an on-going process that requires care, time, and patience. Programs like Red Mountain Colorado can help teens and their families in this journey by providing integrative and evidence-based care shown to help adolescents recover from trauma.
Red Mountain Colorado Can Help
Red Mountain Colorado is a leading residential trauma treatment center for teens aged 14-17 that is built upon emotional safety, competence, compassion, and consistency. The mission of our trauma treatment program is to help your child recover from trauma and grow into a healthy, stable adult.
Our program takes a holistic approach to treatment where teens will work with skilled therapists to address and heal from trauma as well as engage in experiential and adventure therapy. By engaging in these various therapeutic experiences, your teen can improve self-esteem, gain confidence, and create lasting positive change. For more information please call (970) 316-7683.