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Explaining Trauma To A Child: A Parent's Guide

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Sky Abundo · Updated Jun 23, 2022

Explaining Trauma To A Child: A Parent's Guide

We live in an increasingly unsafe world. From mass shootings to forest fires, and pandemics, it seems that children nowadays have more to deal with. It’s unavoidable for them to go through their development without experiencing a single traumatic event. Then, as parents, what are we supposed to do? Read on for some tips on explaining trauma to a child.

What is Considered a Traumatic Event? 

Before we get to explaining trauma to a child, let’s first understand what a traumatic event is.

A traumatic event is an event or series of events that causes immense stress to an individual. While it is absolutely normal to experience stress, when there is a tremendous amount of it, it can be categorized as a traumatic event. Often, a traumatic event is characterized by an experience of an intense sense of horror, helplessness, injury, or threat of death.

Traumatic events can trigger various responses depending on the individual. A person may experience nausea, depression, fear, or grief, among others. After a traumatic event, a person can usually become okay after a few weeks or months. However, it left unchecked or unresolved, it might lead to post-traumatic stress disorder or more commonly referred to as PTSD.

Children Experience Trauma Differently

All these things considered, it is important to realize that adults and children will react to trauma differently. Children are in a very vulnerable position because they are still developing. This means that experiencing trauma for them might leave them with lifelong issues that might cripple them if left unresolved.  

When experiencing trauma, a child will react differently depending on a variety of factors. These factors may include age, stage of development, personality, and how others around them react to the same traumatic event. In addition, children might also show a delayed reaction to traumatic events. This means that after an event occurs, they might seem okay at the start. 

Signs Your Child Might Be Experiencing Trauma

Look out for these signs when you think your child might be experiencing trauma. 


Your child is less talkative, less active and less interested in the usual activities she used to enjoy, or less confident than normal.


Your child repeatedly or habitually does activities like roleplaying or drawings to relive the experience, or talks about the event over and over.


Your child has problems sleeping or maintaining sleep, has separation anxiety, or has problems focusing. The child may also be readily startled or has constant fear of something bad is going to happen.


It isn’t rare for trauma to manifest itself physically. This means that your child might also experience stomachaches, or headaches as a sign of trauma.

It should be noted that there are more symptoms and signs of trauma. As stated above, a child will react differently to trauma depending on a number of factors. This means that a toddler will manifest symptoms and signs of trauma differently from a 10-year-old or a teenager.

What Can Cause Trauma for Children? 

Here are some causes for childhood trauma 

  • Physical abuse and mistreatment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Family, school, and community violence
  • Death
  • Medical trauma
  • Chronic illness
  • Separation from a loved one
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • War

Explaining Trauma to a Child

Since children are vulnerable in their stages of development, it is important for parents to help them resolve any trauma that they might be dealing with.

Here are some tips on explaining trauma to a child.


You need to reassure your child that the event is over. You also need to give them the feeling of comfort and security so they can get over their feeling of trauma.


Part of explaining trauma to a child is attentively listening to what he or she is going through. Not only will this tell your child that you care for his or her well-being, but it might also give you hints and clues on how to better handle the issue and what exactly your child needs from you.

Ask them how they are

Along the lines of listening, you should also ask them how they are. Asking them how they are not only gives you an idea of where they are emotionally, mentally, and psychologically, but it also allows them to verbalize and process their feelings for themselves.

Assure them it’s not their fault

After a traumatic event, a child might end up blaming themselves. They might think that they are at fault. It is important to reassure them that this is not the case.

Communicate as a family

One-on-one conversations are important. However, communicating as a family is important too. This allows everyone to voice out their opinions, concerns, and feelings about the event. This not only fosters togetherness, but it also helps the entire family care for one another.

Explain to your child what trauma is

If you think your child is old enough, you can choose to explain to him or her what trauma is. This can help them understand what they are going through and that it is completely normal. This helps to avoid any feelings of confusion or distress that they might have.

Give them a creative outlet

While young children may not be able to clearly express themselves through words, creative outlets like drawing can help them cope. In addition, activities like drawing and roleplaying with toys can provide parents and experts insight of how trauma has affected a child.

Learn more about Other Child Health Issues here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Sky Abundo · Updated Jun 23, 2022

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