“Among people who were victims of specific traumatic experiences (rape, child abuse, violent assaults, etc.), the rate of PTSD is 60-80 percent.” — Sidran Institute,


“Each year in the United States approximately five million children experience some form of traumatic experience…Traumatic experiences can have a devastating impact on the child, altering their physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. In turn, the impact on the child has profound implications for their family, community and, ultimately, us all.”

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., Child Trauma Institute, http://www.childtrauma.org/ctamaterials/Principles2.asp

*Keep posted the local numbers to the children’s mental health crisis lines or parenting support lines where they can be easily found.  If a therapist or doctor is working with your child, keep that number on hand at all times. Make sure the name and contact number of that doctor is available to all those caring for your child.

*Develop a “safety plan” with your child, involve professionals (may include a therapist, community agency, or a domestic violence agency) assisting your child. A common safety plan includes helping your child learn it’s okay to say “yes/no”, letting tyour child know who “safe people” are, developing a code word to identify safe people and what to do if the child feels threatened or unsafe. A safety plan may also include reading books about how to be safe or roleplaying.

*Create a safe room or area in the home for your child. The purpose of the safe area is a place for your child to go to feel safe and to feel that their wishes are being respected. Let your child give a name to the safe area (for example, my child refers to her safe areas as “the nest”) and decorate it–may include: pillows, blankets, favorite toys/stuffed animals, pictures or sentimental treasures. Once the safe area is established, do not intrude in the safe area unless you feel your child’s safety is at risk. You can use the safe area as a tool to teach your child how to develop healthy boundaries because your child will identify the space as their own.  It is important to affirm to your child, constantly, that they can come to you for help (that you care/love them) and to watch that they do not use the safe area as a means to isolate. If your child is isolating, try to gently coax them out to see what is wrong, or seek the advise of a professional.

*If your child has fears about a certain room in the house, try to make that room as comfortable and inviting as possible. Have your child assist you in decorating the room, and constantly reassure the child the room is safe. Some ideas: removable stick ons, Christmas lights, colorful streamers, cartoon night lights, kids toiletries for the bathroom, balloons, colorful pictures, etc.

*Create “safe hands” to let your child know your home is safe, and remind your child that no one will be hurt in your home. Display the hands by hanging them up with string or using Magic Tape (non-stick) or framing them. Create the hands with paper or cardboard, using your hands and your child’s hands as an outline. Decorate them together then hang. It may also be fun to create “safe hands” using paw prints of your pets.

*Use sensory stimulation as a tool to help your child move past the trauma. Music, walks outside (may want to create a scavenger hunt), bubble bath, playdough, doing dishes, exercise (perhaps Early Childhood Classes) may be helpful for a child to resume some normal activities. If a child seems “stuck” in a traumatic memory or is triggered, sensory stimulation may also help move past that event. You may also want to hold the child close (if they allow you) and read to them or sing to them. If a child is not immediately responsive or withdrawn, they may respond after first seeing you read or sing–especially if you are consistent. The key is being *consistent* so the child knows what to expect.

*Allow your child to give a name to their feelings, so they can personify it. When the child can name the feeling (ie Boo Peep or Sonic) they will be better able to talk about what they are feeling, and feel more control over them. Remain objective, and reassuring. When your child is talking, praise them when they share with you. Let them know they are brave for talking. Show that you are listening by making eye contact (only if this is not frightening), nodding your head, sitting close (only if this is not frightening) and removing all distractions.

*If your child has nightmares or problems sleeping, suggest they put the nightmares in a box for the night (this works really well if your child has named the feeling). Let your child pick out a box or container. Your child may want to put something inside of it–that is okay. My child put in the box cookies, blankets and small toys. Do the usual bedtime routine with the box–say good-night, say prayers, tuck in the nightmare or bad feeling then close the lid. This puts finality on the nightmare or bad feeling. Let your child know the bad feeling is going to sleep (my child needed to hear the bad feeling is safe), and that you can talk again in the morning (or whatever time is appropriate). Let your child know they are safe, it also may help to talk about or show them the safe areas in the house.

*Give your child positive affirmations daily. A good good for children ages 3-8 is “I Love You Because You’re You” by Liza Baker.  For teenagers, I would suggest Out of Eden, a Christian R&B group with a positive message to their music.

*As a parent or caregiver take time to get help or support for yourself. Utilize community resources for your child, a crisis nursery, support groups, spiritual/faith groups, family/friend support, and recognizing when you need a break (even if it is only for a few minutes). Take available free time to support and nurture yourself. Seek additional help or support if needed.

Evanlee Juliet Perth ⓒ 2006


Sources That Offer Advice on How to Help a Child Who has Suffered Trauma:

The Sidran Foundation: Helping a Child Manage Fears After a Traumatic Event


Helping Traumatized Children :::: Welcome to ChildTrauma Academy ::::::::::: http://www.childtrauma.org/ctamaterials/Principles2.asp

Parenting and Child Health – Health Topics – Post-traumatic stress disorder


Preparing the School for Your Child with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


PTRC Traumatized Children Need