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Trauma is prevalent in human culture, with the roots usually lying in childhood. Here we look at what trauma is and some approaches for working with young people. This includes the holistic work done by the charity Body and Soul.

Trauma: what it is and supporting your child

In this blog we examine what trauma is and how to work with young people who may have experienced it. We also get excellent insight of a holistic approach used by Body & Soul Charity by the Assistant Director Jed March. This interview is lower down on the page and covers the restorative work that this charity is doing. 

Nobody wishes to think of a child going through something traumatic. Such experiences are deeply destabilising, can have a devastating impact on the child’s psychological and physical health, and may also take years to recover from. It can be due to unforeseen events, such as the death of a parent or sibling, or may be due to abuse in the home or chronic neglect.

Trauma in childhood is sometimes called complex trauma, childhood trauma, or developmental trauma, and it is important that once it is identified, it is handled correctly to help your child get the best outcome and to assist in their recovery. We will first share a bit more about definitions of trauma and how it can appear.

What is trauma?

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5, or the DSM 5, trauma can be described as:

But trauma can also be the result of being exposed to short-term or long-term stressors, where the threat of violence, sexual violence, abuse, or neglect is common. 

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, can increase the risk of a child becoming traumatised as they get older.

Symptoms of trauma

Spotting trauma in a child is tough, as there tends to be a lot of secrecy around it, and it can be hard to differentiate from conditions like autism spectrum condition or ASC. This does not mean that children who have a diagnosis of ASC have been traumatised and, similarly, children who show signs of trauma may not have ASC.

Symptoms of trauma in children can include:

How to talk to your child about trauma

It can be hard to talk to children about their trauma. However, it is also not something that can, nor should, be ignored.

Explain to your child that it is completely normal that they have both physiological and psychological responses due to what they have been through. You can help them use a set of words to describe how they are feeling, such as foggy, sacred, anxious, or unsettled. In relation to the bodily sensations, you can ask them where they are feeling unwell. Most children who have been through trauma will experience headaches, migraines, upset tummies and even fast heart rates due to anxiety. So, ask them if it is their chest, head or tummy causing them to feel unwell. 

Be prepared that there may be times when your child may not be able to communicate why/how they are feeling unwell due to multiple symptoms hitting them at once. Be patient; take them somewhere safe and calm until they are better able to articulate their emotions.

Talking to your child
Patience and understanding is key for talking to children who have experienced trauma.

Strategies to help a child who has been through trauma

Each child who has been through trauma will have different things that can help them to feel safe and calm. However, there are some ways that you can help them better regulate their emotions so they feel more in control when they do become unwell.

Identify triggers

Children who have been traumatised will have triggers. This may be something like enclosed spaces or loud noises. Identifying these and talking them through can help your child feel more in control, and then, with the help of school staff and therapists, they can become better at managing their responses to them.


A child who has been traumatised can be helped with a simple routine. This will allow them to feel safe in their surroundings. Aim to set a time for breakfast, lunch, dinner, bath time, bedtime, and so on. Place the routine somewhere accessible, like the kitchen fridge or in their bedroom. Do not change or alter it without discussing it with them.

Build trust

Set aside time each day to talk to your child. This can be done via toys, doing puzzles, or even looking at bugs in your garden. These small things accumulate each day and will help them trust you. Trust is crucial for helping children overcome trauma and to feel safe in themselves and the world.

Trust is a process, but is instrumental for effective communication.

Calmness is key

You will need to make the home environment as calm as possible. No loud noises and no changes in the routine. Try to keep the level of noise in the home down, especially at night, as sudden loud noises can inadvertently cause a child who is traumatised to become scared.


A child who has been through trauma may lash out and have meltdowns. This is a normal way for them to manage their emotions and should be expected.

As an adult, you should never shout at them, smack them, or punish them for this. This will heighten their fear and potentially reverse the progress that they have made in managing their trauma. If you feel yourself becoming angry, remove yourself from the situation if you need to, and seek support / someone to talk to, to help you better manage your emotions. You are only human, and this can be a very challenging situation to handle.

Promote a healthy lifestyle

A person who has been through trauma is more likely to struggle with levels of high anxiety due to the learned response to the events. So, if you are aiming to help a child manage their trauma, you need to promote a healthy lifestyle to get rid of some of that excess energy. 

Here are some ways to do this:

An approach to trauma: Body and Soul Charity

One of the Bright Heart directors, Ryan Stevenson, has been a volunteer therapist at this charity for 12 years. He has witnessed the impact that this charity is making, from its group of dedicated staff and volunteers. 

This interview covers the important work that this charity is doing and is very informative as to a holistic approach that looks at the whole child and their community setting.

For more information, please get in touch with the charity here.

Get in touch

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about support for your child. Bright Heart tutors are experienced supporting children who have experienced trauma. 

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