Linda Goldman is a licensed counsellor and has a Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement with an MS degree in counselling and Master’s Equivalency in early childhood education. Linda worked as a teacher and counsellor in the school system for 20 years. She has written many articles on counselling and taught and lectured at various universities, most recently in the Graduate Program of Counselling at Johns Hopkins University, and has a private grief therapy practice in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where she now lives. Linda is the author of the new book, Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Death, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Ordinary fears are a normal part of a child’s developmental growth, and children create internal and external mechanisms to cope with these fears. But a child’s “ordinary fears” can be transformed into very real “survival fears” in the face of severe trauma.

Children witness untold traumas in their homes, schools, communities, and nations.

Signs of traumatized children:

Caring adults need to recognize the signs of grieving and traumatized children, and they need to be aware of the techniques and resources available to help bring safety and protection back to the child’s inner and outer world. For example, listening to children’s thoughts and feelings and providing a safe means of expression helps teachers, parents, and educators reinforce their ability to ensure a safe and protected environment.

Traumatized children tend to re-create their trauma, often experiencing bad dreams, waking fears, and reoccurring flashbacks.. Young children have a very hard time putting these behaviours into any context of safety. Many withdraw and isolate themselves, regress and appear anxious, and develop sleeping and eating disorders as a mask for the deep interpretations of their trauma.

When caring adults can identify traumatized kids, they can normalize grief and trauma signs and develop ways kids can express their feelings and emotions. Parents, educators, and other caring professionals can model, present, and support comfortable ways to bring safety and protection back into kids’ lives.

It is important to initiate safe places for kids to express their ideas. This can be done by finding quiet times at home, in the car, or on a peaceful walk. Being with children without distractions can produce a comfortable climate to begin dialogue. Bedtime should be a reassuring time, too. Often this is the time children choose to talk about their worries. Parents can consider an increase in transition time, storytelling, and book reading to create a peaceful, uninterrupted nightime environment.

One goal of trauma work with children is to restore safety and protection to all children who have experienced trauma within their homes, schools, and community. Another goal is to provide parents and youth works with information understanding, and skills related to the issues creating trauma. With these tools we can help our children become less fearful and more compassionate human beings, thereby increasing their chances of living in a future world of increased inner and outer peace.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2009

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