As a caregiver, seeing your child or teen unable to cope after they have experienced a significant loss or traumatic event is overwhelming. Children and teens may experience a wide range of symptoms that can be related to grief and trauma. These may include:
- Physical symptoms/distress such as stomach aches, headaches, and body pains
- Withdrawing from others
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty with focus/concentration
- Decreased interest in activities
- Emotional dysregulation
- Persistent worry, anxiety, or panic attacks
- Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
- Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- Recurrent nightmares or night terrors
- Avoidance of situations related to a past event
- Attachment difficulties
- Intrusive images and flashbacks
- Exaggerated startle reaction/ hyper-vigilance
There are evidence-based approaches that can help your child process and heal from distressing experiences, and to help them build adaptive coping skills for their future. Depending on your child’s age and specific referral concern, the following specialized treatment approaches may be used and/or integrated together to best support your child:
- Play, Sand-tray and Art-based Therapy: These modalities provide emotional safety and distance to help children and teens express difficult thoughts and feelings, and to help them work through painful and upsetting experiences.
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing): EMDR has been demonstrated to be one of the most effective approaches for treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It also helps children with anxiety, depression, phobias, and self-esteem. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (rhythmic left-right patterns via eye movements or hand vibrations) to process distressing thoughts, emotions, and memories. It also helps children and youth develop more adaptive and positive beliefs about themselves.
- Accelerated Resolution Therapy (A.R.T): This therapeutic protocol is also effective for treating PTSD, phobias, grief, depression, and anxiety in children and youth. It also uses bilateral stimulation though focuses on imagery to directly change how distressing memories are stored in the brain so that they no longer trigger intense emotional reactions.
- Somatic Experiencing (SE): This is a gentle therapeutic approach that focuses on increasing body awareness. It involves movement and tracking bodily sensations in the nervous system and increasing children and teen’s tolerance and capacity for difficult emotions.
- Trauma Focused CBT (TF-CBT): This is an evidence-based psychotherapy for symptoms of trauma. Core features of TF-CBT include parent/caregiver psychoeducation, as well as directly supporting emotional regulation skills, cognitive coping, and processing of the trauma. TF-CBT recognizes that the support of the parent/caregiver is an essential part of the child’s recovery. Sessions include joint parent/caregiver and child sessions. This provides an opportunity for the child to teach the skills that they have learned and to allow their parent/caregiver to learn about the child’s view.
If your child or teen is struggling, please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss further.
For more information about EMDR for children, please visit our EMDR page
Animation to Explain EMDR Therapy to Children
How EMDR Can Help Bad Memories