7. Protect the child. Do not hesitate to cut short or stop activities that are upsetting or re-traumatizing for the child. If you observe increased symptoms in a child that occur in a certain situation or following exposure to certain movies, activities and so forth, avoid these activities. Try to restructure or limit activities that cause escalation of symptoms in the traumatized child.

8. Give the child 'choices' and some sense of control. When a child, particularly a traumatized child, feels that they do not have control of a situation, they will predictably get more symptomatic. If a child is given some choice or some element of control in an activity or in an interaction with an adult, they will feel more safe, comfortable and will be able to feel, think and act in a more 'mature' fashion. When a child is having difficulty with compliance, frame the 'consequence' as a choice for them - "You have a choice- you can choose to do what I have asked or you can choose....." Again, this simple framing of the interaction with the child gives them some sense of control and can help defuse situations where the child feels out of control and therefore, anxious.

9. If you have questions, ask for help. These brief guidelines can only give you a broad framework for working with a traumatized child. Knowledge is power; the more informed you are, the more you understand the child, the better you can provide them with the support, nurturing and guidance they need. Take advantage of resources in your community. Each community has agencies, organizations and individuals coping with the same issues. They often have the support you may need.

© Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD and the ChildTrauma Academy. For more information about the work of the ChildTrauma Academy, please visit


Next Story