Peaceful Change

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Child Trauma: What It Is and How to Help Your Child

Nov 23, 2021

Your child has experienced violence to himself/herself or witnessed such violence. He or she begins to act very differently than before the event. How can you tell what’s normal and what’s not?


It is natural to experience trauma following a violent occurrence, whether it is to oneself or to another. When that someone is a child, it may not be so easy to identify what is happening.

After a violent episode, the child may have difficulty sleeping—often waking with nightmares—appetite changes, irritability, fear, serious reaction to loud noises, and withdrawal. Along with these behaviors, a child may exhibit other signs such as fear of going to school, poor concentration, physical complaints, and getting easily upset.

Helping Your Child

Immediately following the event, these symptoms could be severe. You can help to lessen them by providing a safe, calm atmosphere at home, including being understanding about unacceptable behaviors. Be calm when addressing the behavior. Explain that such behavior is not acceptable and talk about an alternative way to express their unhappiness.  Providing the opportunity to work with you to develop an alternative will gain buy-in from the child.

Create a return to normalcy, by helping your child participate in routine activities. Make it easy for your child to express his or her feelings about what happened. It is important not to force your child to discuss the event or to be judgmental. Just listen—calmly and sympathetically.

In a few months, if your child is still exhibiting symptoms, especially if he or she has gotten worse, consider seeking therapy for your child. Continued trauma can lead to developmental problems, regression to old behaviors, and poor performance in school.

Chester Community Coalition has free programs to help children who have experienced trauma. We invite you to contact us. For more information, check out our website at:

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