As a parent, it’s instinctive to want to shelter your child from life’s harshest realities and keep them safe from pain. However, as they grow older and reach their teenage years, this becomes more difficult. Unfortunately, many teens have already experienced a traumatic event of some kind: roughly 40% of American teens have witnessed violence, while 17% have been physically assaulted themselves. There are also other forms of trauma many teens have experienced, including serious injury, the death of a loved one, or a car accident.
If your teenager has had the misfortune of experiencing a traumatic event, you may be struggling to figure out how to best support them. Helping a loved one through recovery is especially tricky if you also endured the traumatic event because you’re now trying to navigate your own healing journey as well as your child’s. While it may feel like a daunting and emotionally draining process, there are several ways you can help your teen cope with trauma and lead them on the path to recovery.
Therapy can be incredibly helpful when trying to manage trauma. It’s especially worthwhile to consider counselling services if your teen is displaying any serious warning signs, including excessive mood swings, unusual sleep patterns, and extreme isolation. Any of these behaviors could be indicative of a severe mental health issue that could be the result of their trauma. When you – or in this case, your teen – receive effective trauma therapy, they gain helpful insight and valuable tools that can be used to understand and cope with trauma. Professional therapists are trained to help patients deal with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from a variety of events, including sexual or physical abuse, a car accident, or the death of a loved one.
With trauma often comes grieving. You may find your teen grieving the loss of a friend, a pet, or mourning the loss of the life they used to lead prior to the traumatic event. No matter what they are mourning, let them know that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to grieve. Tell them that they can come and talk to you at any point in their grieving process, but don’t pressure them or force them to discuss anything with you. Creating a safe space of trust and open dialogue will help your teen greatly on their path to recovery.
Exercise can help to burn off adrenaline and release serotonin-boosting endorphins. Not only can this help improve your teen’s mood, but it can help them sleep better at night and start leading a healthier life overall. Try gently suggesting some ideas for physical activities, ideally ones you can all participate in as a family. Propose going for a hike or a bike ride or even a walk all together; the physiological response as well as the feeling of unity will help your teen cope with their trauma.
Helping someone manage trauma is never an easy or simple process. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to guide your teen through their most troubling times. In following these steps, you’ll ensure your teen is on the best path to recovery.