PTSD (school-aged children and teens) Part One
Julia Mitchell-Hoffman, ECE Behaviorist
Not all children who experience trauma will develop Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder. For those who do many
times it is related to
someone they love being killed or dying from an illness
they themselves or someone they know being badly
Events normally associated with PTSD in Children:
sexual or physical abuse
a friend's suicide
seeing violence in the area they live
witnessing domestic violence
separation from parent
How severe the trauma is
How the parents react to the trauma
How close or far away the child is from the trauma
The child’s chronological and developmental age
Ages 5-12 often present with problems remembering the trauma,
often putting the events of their experience in a disconnected order. This confusion also can impact how they perceive
future trauma occurring.
that if they “just pay attention better” trauma will not reoccur. They take on misplaced and misguided feelings
of guilt, shame and responsibility.
They may display parts of the trauma through play hoping
that the distress they feel will just go away.
A child who experiences a shooting in his neighborhood may want to play
a game of “hiding under the kitchen table” or carry a knife to school.
Ages 12-18 may present distorted facts of the trauma or may
be able to accurately piece together what has happened to them. The major difference in teens that we see is
that they are more than likely to display impulsive and aggressive behaviors.
Teens are in between children and adults. Some PTSD symptoms
in teens begin to look like those of adults. One difference is that teens are
more likely than younger children or adults to show impulsive and aggressive
Fear, worry, sadness, anger, feeling alone and
apart from others, feeling as if people are looking down on them, low
self-worth, and not being able to trust others
Behaviors such as aggression, out-of-place
sexual behavior, self-harm, and abuse of drugs or alcohol
What Can Parents Do?
Provide support and acceptance
Your child needs to know that accept, love and are there for
them. Be an active listener. Encourage
your child to talk but do not force them.
Remind your child gently that what happened is not their fault. For some children drawing or writing in
journal is helpful.
Help your child to understand what anxiety is about:
Anxiety sets of an alarm in our bodies and minds
that there is danger or that we are at risk.
This is a normal process and can be most helpful.
It becomes a problem when we are anxious but
there is no real danger. This happens
when we over predict a risk, hazard or threat.
Feeling anxiety can feel very scary,
frightening, terrifying and/or upsetting.