When brains experience trauma, they struggle to cope with it.
It’s normal- and part of the healing process- to have flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive thoughts immediately following a traumatic experience. Knowing this and normalizing this matters! Recent research found that kids who believed their response to trauma was bad, wrong, or a sign something was wrong with them were more likely to develop chronic symptoms (PTSD) than kids who didnt view their trauma response as a bad thing.
Study by Meiser-Stedman & team, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 03/2019
This doodle fleshes out that research article a bit more: I think the most interesting takeaway is this: kids who spent a lot of time and brain-space trying to process their experience had a higher risk for PTSD. While this could be a chicken vs egg thing (i.e. are naturally thoughtful kids are higher risk for PTSD?) my takeaway from this research is the following:
1. Don’t pressure kids to talk about their trauma in a grown-up way (kids and some tweens are going to work it out through their play, so support unscripted play to be a supportive presence)
2. Support kids through trauma recovery by normalizing their response. One of the best ways? The phrase: “of course you feel ____” .