Play therapy can be very effective for healing trauma. The tactile experience gives “distance” from which to explore and deal with intense feelings. Even teens and adults can benefit from treatments which involve play and art or other expressive interventions. Words can fail us when we experience intensely frightening events, and other means of expressing ourselves become necessary.
Many children are quite resilient when dealing with traumatic events, but it’s good for parents to know what to look for when their child might be struggling.
Here are some signs that your child might be experiencing post-traumatic reactions:
- anxious, nervous, agitated
- difficulty concentrating
- refuses to go to school; difficulty with schoolwork
- becomes angry quickly
- aggressive, either verbally or physically
- nightmares, or repetitive nightmares
- won’t sleep in his/her own bed; sleeps on floor or wants to sleep with parents
- easily startled by noises or situations similar to the traumatic event
- reverts to “younger-age” behaviors like bedwetting, nail biting, thumbsucking
- won’t talk about what happened
- talks excessively about what happened
- becomes very dependent–clings to parents or other caretakers; fears separations
- problems with friendships and siblings–seems aloof or argues
- seems “different” than he/she did before; personality seems a bit different
When given the opportunity, children will often play out scenes from a traumatic event. For example, following a car accident, parents might see their children playing out car crashes and rescues with their toys. This can help the child cope better. Just as we adults need to talk with others after experiencing something frightening, sad, or devastating, children need to play through their feelings as well. (‘play-therapy.com – trauma’)
Trigger warning: video includes some details of trauma and abuse.