How do you know if your child has been traumatised?

childhood trauma Feb 10, 2022

It could be losing a close friend or family member, or the separation of parents, or experiencing a broken home, or constant changes such as moving schools or houses, or emotional or physical abuse. 

These are just a few examples of traumatic events that can leave an emotional mark that young people, like myself, can’t seem to shake off.

My personal experience of dealing with several traumatic events in my childhood and teens, was that I wish my parents had tried to understand what I was going through and done more to help me cope during this tumultuous time with their reassurance, support, and love.

I’m writing this blog to try to help you support your own child.

Signs of trauma:

Trauma comes from the immense hurt, grief and pain that a young person is holding onto from a certain distressing situation and is finding it difficult to move on. Each young person will cope with challenging life events differently, and what will traumatise one, will not have the same effect on another.

My trauma manifested itself in specific ways, but these are not limited to all young people:

  • Experiencing delayed grief several months after the situation happened

During year 11, before my exams, I had lost 3 family members in the space of 2 months. With the stress of all my exams on top of my grief, I didn’t have the time or mental capacity to allow myself to feel all these overwhelming emotions. Prolonging my grief and not having a healthy outlet for these intense emotions made me feel extremely numb in the beginning. This only did more harm than good because once all my distractions were gone and the moment of realisation that they were all truly gone hit me, the uncontrollably rush of emotions was too much.

  • Changes in sleeping, anger, distress, and eating

My coping mechanism for my parent’s separation and the years of emotional manipulation from my family made me develop several eating difficulties, such as binge eating, secret eating, and anorexia. Whenever I felt intense emotions or witnessed my parents' arguments, I used food as a way to deal with all the sadness and anxiety. Some days I would binge eat to give me some sort of comfort. Other days I would hardly eat anything because this gave me a false sense of control, which I needed with everything else in my life seemingly going out of my control. 

  • Having night terrors, nightmares or other sleep difficulties

Throughout my childhood and teen years, I suffered from night terrors and nightmares. They got so bad at times and were so terrifyingly vivid. My mum would wake up to me hysterically crying and screaming, but no matter how much she would try to shake me awake, put me under the shower, or call my name, nothing would wake me up. It was when I went to the doctors, I finally understood my nightmares were a manifestation of all the feelings I kept bottled up because of my unresolved trauma.

My research for this article has shown that there are many other ways that young people experience trauma:


  • Dates related to the trauma, such as birthdays, anniversaries, when the situation happened, can cause overwhelming emotions
  • Anxiety about their safety
  • Moments of intense crying or screaming


  • Moving aimlessly or freezing up
  • Being overly alert most of the time
  • Increased heart rate, shaking, or sweating  


  • Refusing to go to places linked to the person or situation of the trauma 
  • Appearing withdrawn or anxious, including going to social events or public gatherings
  • No longer enjoying the same activities they once loved

How my trauma affected me in later life

I’ve always had a difficult time dealing with grief and trauma, even after many years, it has impacted many other aspects in my life. From making friends, stopping myself getting into relationships, the thought of losing someone again, the fear of being close to someone and getting hurt. Holding myself back from making meaningful memories made me feel lonely, stuck, and helpless to the overwhelming anxieties and worries left by my trauma.

Whether your child has lived through a traumatic situation, witnessed or experienced traumatic stress, they’re often likely to be affected by intense, scary, and confusing emotions. My experience with the separation of my parents caused me 15 years of trauma from the emotional manipulation of my family. I felt constantly vulnerable and was described as being ‘too emotional’. I recall thinking ‘what’s wrong with me’ or ‘where do I even begin to stop this feeling’, expecting myself to magically feel happier.

Why did I feel this way? I was taught to deal with these overwhelming emotions by simply ignoring or being completely numb to them. This became my long-term coping strategy for any unpleasant events in my life. The build-up of unreleased grief and trauma led to my difficulties with self-harming and mental health. 

How can you help your child with their trauma?

My advice to parents is, whatever the age of your child, it’s important to offer extra reassurance and support following a traumatic event. With your love and guidance, the unsettling thoughts and feelings of traumatic stress can start to fade, and your child’s life can start to return to normal. 

What does your child and teen need from you? It’s important to realise that your child’s reaction to a traumatic event can be greatly influenced by your own response. Children and teens of all ages — even the most independent, strong, and happy teenagers — look to their parents for a calming, supportive, and comforting influence in times of crisis. 

I found that for myself, and for other young people, it can be easy to pick up on your parents' anxieties and distress, and I needed my parents to be strong, stable, and dependable during my traumatic episodes. 

You can also try to help your child process the difficult feelings they’re experiencing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Be patient and encourage your child to openly share their feelings about their trauma.
  • Allow them to grieve in their own way to help them let go of their pain and suffering to move on.
  • Provide a safe and stable home environment for your child. This can be comforting for young people going through a difficult time and to have a safe haven that they can come back to in times of great distress.
  • Encourage physical activity or a hobby. Trauma can cause young people to lose interest in the things they used to love, but this can help provide a distraction from their overwhelming emotions.


SIGN-UP FOR OUR FREE ONLINE COURSE where we coach you to play a key role supporting your child’s healing & recovery; their journey back to health and happiness: 

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE BOOKLET and learn how a mother led her self-harming teenage child back to health & happiness:

We will be publishing an article in our blog very soon - so watch this space.


Research and Community Executive


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.