Try as you might, you can’t always see into the psyche of your children. So how do you know if your child has experienced a traumatic incident, or is withholding some deep, difficult emotions from you? Here are some things to look for.
1. Physical Symptoms
The first thing you can look for in your child or teen are physical symptoms or changes. If your child suddenly has inexplicable aches, pains or stomach problems that can’t be addressed by a doctor, these could be the physical signs of trauma. Our body can react to trauma just as our mind can. If your child is unable to sleep, keeps having nightmares or is constantly fatigued, these could be additional physical warning signs.
2. Emotional Changes
Emotional symptoms of a traumatic incident can include sudden outbursts of anger, crying, sadness or fear. While it’s not uncommon for children to be emotional, look for significant changes in your child’s personality. Were they once a happy, easygoing child but are now are moody and easily irritated? Dramatic shifts like this could be an indicator of a traumatic event.
Dissociation is another common sign of trauma. It is typically used as a coping mechanism. If your child is suddenly withdrawn and no longer participates in favourite activities, or doesn’t see friends anymore, this could be a sign of dissociation. In other words, they might detach from key relationships. Sometimes it can look like your child has “checked out” or is daydreaming. If your child exhibits these behaviors constantly, or if they suddenly begin to exhibit them, it’s possible that they have experienced a traumatic incident.
Traumatic incidents can also affect your child’s cognitive behaviors. They might start struggling academically or in conversation. This often manifests itself with difficulties concentrating, forming complete thoughts, problem solving, presenting ideas or reasoning.
Put simply, these behaviors should not be ignored. If you think your child is displaying any of these, it could be worth seeking the opinion of a mental health professional.
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