Stress and Trauma in Children


stress and trauma

Stress and trauma are issues many children have to deal with. Trauma is a real or perceived threat to life or serious injury. Experiences of stress over time and the stress exceeding the child’s ability to cope can lead to big cognitive shifts and behavioral changes. For many of our children, the stressors brought on by the pandemic have been threatening and lasting. Because of this, there is a big question gaining more attention now. Are children able to learn? Or are they in survival mode?

Let me share with you the 5 activities I am adopting in daily life to support my child and the children I work with. Even small changes can take a child out of survival and into learning.

5 Ideas to Support Daily Activity

Firstly, make time for connection. Add an extra 5 minutes before school or at bedtime to talk and connect about your child’s concerns. No answers to tough questions needed. By listening, hugging, and supporting, the change is happening.

Promote body awareness with a sensory based routine before or after school.

  • Alerting Sensory Activities – These activities are intense, complex, and use fast paced movement.
  • Calming Sensory Activities – These activities are repetitive, familiar, slow paced, rhythmic, and simple.

Increase humor, music, and play time. Whatever is enjoyable, increase it right now. Funny movie nights or music playing while cooking or getting ready for dinner are great options. The goal is to increase laughter, dance, and imagination.

Learn something new. Choose anything new and practice together. My son and I are learning Spanish and archery together, even if we only get to practice 2-3 times a week. It is new, and it is OUR thing.

Support a growth mindset. A growth mindset, simply put, is looking at our capacity for learning and promoting growing into more supportive and positive thinking. There are several websites available to provide everyday ideas to parents to help build a growth mindset. Using positive thinking and language can support our perception of threat.

What Now?

There are tons of resources out there to help start the process. Here are some to help you get started. Check out psychologist, Carol Dweck’s, TED talk on The Power of Believing that You Can Improve. For a new activity, you can try a Big Life Journal. In addition, you can check out some of Dr. Dan Siegel’s advice. He is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, and his website has tons of resources.

It’s important to remember that we all need a little help from time to time. And even more so as we continue to move through the pandemic. If you think your child is dealing with stress and trauma and you are struggling with new behavior from them, an occupational therapy evaluation can help. Call MOSAIC today to set up a free screen or evaluation.