Over many years of supporting families raising children with trauma, I have noticed some common themes in my conversations with parents. I thought it might be helpful to summarize them in a way that inspires you to try something new today.  Here are my 5 Tips for Staying Connected to Children with Trauma. You might find it helpful to print off the pdf version. Post it somewhere you can see it when you are doing your best to soothe and calm big feelings in little (or not so little) bodies. 

1. Find the Need Under the Behavior A child’s behaviour, the only part of their experience that we can visibly see, doesn’t tell the whole story.  Underneath each frustrating behaviour is a need that your child doesn't know how to communicate differently. Using curiosity, take a deep dive below the surface to discover what your child's behavior is telling you about their needs. Here are a few ideas to get your creative thinking engaged. ‘Is there something going on with my child’s body (tired, hungry, sick, hurt)?’ ‘Do they have a sensory need (can’t manage the texture of the food, the room is too noisy)?’ ‘Are they having an upsetting or negative thought (no one ever listens to me, mom will leave me just like my last mom did)?’ ‘Are they having a big, unexpected or uncomfortable feeling (sad, scared, anxious)?’

2. Set a Strong Foundation Through Co-Regulation It is easy to overestimate a child’s ability to regulate their own body and feelings. When our child is dysregulated, their emotional brain is engaged, and their logical brain is essentially offline. In these moments parents can lend their own nervous system to their child by offering a safe and calm presence. 

This is called co-regulationWhen we feel calm and centered, we can provide the calm regulation our child needs for themselves. Over time and with repetition, a child can increase their ability to provide this for themselves. Children benefit when we remain lovingly present and engaged through their difficult emotions.

3. Increase Safety Through Repetitive Experiences A child’s experience of safety begins in relationships with the significant adults in their lives when we repeatedly respond to their behavior, thoughts, and feelings in a way that feels safe. Hugs, reassuring looks, calm responses, a soothing voice, singing our child’s favourite song, playing games, staying close and helping them release energy are all ways that we help to regulate our child’s nervous system. These responses provide relief from stress both physically and emotionally. Helping your child feel safe in your presence builds trust and connection.

4. Know Your Own Triggers To offer our children co-regulation we as parents need to recognize when we are being triggered so we can first help ourselves be regulated. When a particular behavior activates us, we can take the opportunity to understand our own triggers. ‘What does this behaviour remind me of?’ ‘What do I believe about my child when they have this behaviour?’ 

Awareness of our own reactions reminds us to challenge our beliefs about behavior and soothe our own nervous system.  This helps us stay present while our child is having a hard time.  

5. Offer Opportunities to Practice Skills Children who have experienced trauma often display rigid thinking. This might look like oppositionality or refusal to follow directions and requests. Rigid thinking can be a lagging cognitive skill or strong desire to regain a feeling of control that has been lost due to traumatic experiences. Saying no without saying “no” is one approach to managing this challenge. “Going to the park sounds like a lot of fun. Today is your swimming lesson so we can go to the park tomorrow after school.” This helps them shift from one idea to another without eliciting a blowup. Another strategy is to offer two choices instead of a 'no' to allow the child experience some control.  Offering choices that are clear and developmentally appropriate  help children focus on achieving control without negative consequences.

Staying connected to children with trauma is hard work and some days can be incredibly challenging. Remember to breathe. Make things right when you don't respond the way you want to. Be kind to yourself. You are doing your best.

You can download a printable version of the 5 Tips for Staying Connected to Children with Trauma: 5 Tips from a Parent Coach or view it online.

If you need support please feel free to read my profile and reach out and make an an appointment through our contact us page. Sometimes you need someone who understands what it feels like and can offer support that really works for your family. 



Mon-Sat 9am - 4pm
Join our Mailing List
Be the first to hear about our free resources, upcoming events, blog releases and new services by joining our mailing list.
Copyright @2023 A Child's Song. All Right Reserved