How to Support a Loved One/Friend/Child
When our loved one/friend experiences trauma, it hurts us deeply. We can experience a wide variety of your own feelings. We worry about their futures. We are angry that someone hurt them. We are overwhelmed because we do not know how to increase their safety. We are confused about why this happened and how to make it better. We feel like we did not do enough to protect them. We are fearful about how our families and communities will respond. Your loved one/friend is worried about you worrying about those things too.
Trauma is defined as an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. What this means is, it makes sense that your child might be feeling and thinking differently about the world now. There is no right way to react to abnormal circumstances.
One of the best predictors of decreasing risk factors following a traumatic experience is the belief and support of family/friends. Using phrases like “I believe you” and “It is not your fault” can dramatically shift their reactions. It is helpful when you can practice empowerment-focused skills with your loved one. This means, when you can give them a choice or some sense of control, you do. It does not mean that there are no longer boundaries. Actually, we thrive when there are clear boundaries that are infused with generosity and compassion.
There is also power in naming feelings and letting them be present. It is normal to have “big feelings” after trauma. As a loved one/friend, you can help your loved one express their emotions by listening and allowing them to tell the story of what happened on their terms. Pushing for details or “fact checking” your their story will likely cause them to withdraw and feel disconnection. It is important to show them that you are open and ready to talk when THEY decide they want to talk. It is also imperative to follow your their lead. Remember our brains react differently when we experience trauma than during a more normative day-to-day experience.
When trauma happens, it impacts the whole family. It can also be isolating and silencing. You may feel like no one can possibly understand or relate to you. That’s why we believe there is strength in numbers. Prevail offers support groups in our office. These groups are for parents of children and teens who have experienced sexual abuse. We also have groups if you are in an abusive or unhealthy intimate partner relationship. Building relationships with people have had similar experiences can be valuable. We know walking into a room of strangers can feel intimidating AND there is power in not being alone. Connection is healing.
Other Helpful Information: Join a Support Group /// Youth Services