1.

How to Support a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused or Traumatized

  • Parental Support: Crucial for a child's recovery; believe, support, and praise their courage in sharing.
  • Stay Calm: Manage your own emotions separately to help your child.
  • Listen & Empathize: Hear their story, empathize with their feelings, and help them separate emotions from the perpetrator's actions.
  • Provide Support: Ask how to create a safe environment and support their needs.
  • Seek Help: Reach out to professionals and create a support team.
  • Encourage Conversation: Foster ongoing communication without overwhelming the child.

 First thing I just want to say to you as the parent, I am so sorry that this has happened to your child and in effect to you that you are having to address this and navigate it and figure out what to do and what to say. There is no doubt that this is one of the most awful things that can happen to a person.

but I do want you to hear that there is a very big recovery difference for a child who has a supportive caregiver who believes them and helps them navigate through their trauma. And a child who is dismissed, ignored, not believed, shamed, et cetera, all sexual abuse is. Something that a child will carry with them and have to work through.

It doesn't have to become a part of who they are. It doesn't have to become a part of their identity. If you as a parent are able to successfully help them navigate their trauma, the first message you really want your child to absorb is that they did the right thing by telling you to make sure they know you're proud of them for sharing that.

It must have been scary and took a lot of courage, but that you are deeply.  deeply in their court and will help them navigate whatever needs to be navigated around this and that they did the right thing by telling you. The second thing you're gonna need to do is something you're gonna do internally, which is you need to calm your body.

And this sounds a little strange because you want your child to know that you care, but if you aren't calm, you're going to be. Of, and there's a grief as a parent that is our own grief when we haven't been able to protect our child from a predator of some form. But that's not theirs to carry. That's ours to carry and to work through with the other adults in our life.

And we're gonna calm our bodies down so that we can be curious. Ask your child to tell you the story of what happened as they tell you that story. Pay attention. To what they are feeling. They might be feeling numb and in shock. They might be feeling sad, they might be feeling ashamed. They might be feeling angry.

They might be feeling scared. Notice what their body states are in response to the story and try to stay with them where they have. Are, while this story is tragic and sad, if your child is numb and you start bawling your eyes out, it will be overwhelming to them. They will be not only trying to handle this thing that's happened to them, they'll now be trying to handle your response to this thing that's happened to them after you've listened to them tell the story of what happened and to the best of their ability or their willingness at that.

then you wanna empathize with the feelings that they shared. Like, I can see why you're feeling flooded, overwhelmed, scared, sad, embarrassed. I can see why those feelings are there. And then you're gonna wanna help them separate the feelings that are actually theirs to hold, and the feelings that belong either to their perpetrator or the situation you might say to them.

Totally understand how having something like that happen to you could trigger some shame. It feels like what they did was yucky, and so you're afraid that that makes you yucky. But I want to be clear that you are not yucky, that you had no control, and what happened to you was not your fault or a reflection on you.

That is something about the other person and what they're going through that they need to work out that's not on you. Or if they're scared, you would say, oh, I can see why you're feeling so scared. I didn't know this was happening and I wasn't able to protect you before, and so you're afraid it might happen again.

I am not scared that it's gonna happen again because I'm a grownup and I know there are things that we can do to prevent this person from having access to you again and make sure that you're safe. Or if they're scared about this person getting into big, big trouble, et cetera, you can. , I understand that you are an incredibly caring heart and you don't want anyone to get in trouble, and I don't want anyone to get in trouble, but I do want everyone to get the help they need.

And sometimes the help that people need is different. It might be that they, they need to be held accountable in some way. That might be the help they need so that they don't hurt themselves or anyone else anymore. But that's not your responsibility. That's. Responsibility. Do not under any circumstance threaten to harm the person who harmed them because when we become violent, we actually are engaging in the same act that was happened to our child.

It may not be sexual violence, but it is violence. We don't want our children to come to us and fear or find that we have that same instinct to dominate another person instead of to take care of them. The next thing you do is you ask your. , what can I do to help you feel believed, supported, and safe right now?

If this happened at school, they may not want to go to school for the next day or two, or they may need your help talking to administration, changing classes, seating the situations, et cetera. Make a list of everything they're asking of you, even if you aren't going to be able to provide all of it. Make sure they feel that you want to and you are going to do your very best effort to give them what they need in this moment.

and then next step that you're gonna get some help because I'm telling you, I'm a therapist. I think about this stuff ad nauseum. This is not something I would navigate alone. It is something I would need to have an objective support in my process with my family so that I'm not so triggered in my own response that I am projecting that onto my kid or getting in the way of their healing process.

If this has happened to your. Reach out to a therapist. They may need to call cps. It may be a part of the process, but if this is not something that you have done, your, your relationship with your child is not a threat, and, and you can actually call CPS yourself and get what it's called, voluntary services.

And voluntary services basically means you get free resources from your state in order to help you with your child. I understand not everybody feels comfortable calling cps. I get you. I hear you. If that's not something, if that's something that's very terrifying to you that I want you to consider, who in your c.

can come in and support you and help you make decisions on how to handle the situation. Cuz every situation is unique. How you're gonna respond to a child disclosing about child to child interactions or abuse is gonna be different than how you're gonna respond to a child telling you that their teacher has sexually abused.

There are legal ramifications and all of the situations, and you want to make sure that you have a team of people helping you make these very tricky decisions. The last part of this conversation I want you to hear. , your kids are gonna be looking to you as to whether or not they're allowed to continue to talk about this.

Think about this and feel this. If your discomfort with this topic prevents them from feeling like they continue to process it, they will stall out in their processing. We wanna model to them by checking in with them, how are you doing about the abuse? How are you doing about what happened with so-and-so?

Have you been thinking about it? How's it affecting your heart? Your body, your self-image, your relationships? What is mentionable is manageable. Thank you, Mr. . That's a quote from him. As much as you can give space now that is different than being hypervigilant, waking up in the morning, how are you doing?

Are you okay? How are things going? That's overwhelming to a child, right? So you want to create this space, but respect their taking of space. Hey, would you like, is there anything you wanna share about this? Are there any ways you wanna open up about what's going on? Do you need some of my time? Like, I don't wanna talk about it right now.

He said, that's okay. We're gonna need to keep talking about it, because it was kind of a big. , but we can talk about it later. When would be an ideal time for us to talk about it or a setting for us to talk about it? Or what do you need first in order to be able to talk about it? And sometimes with certain kids and personalities, they're gonna need a week or two before they're gonna be able to really find the words, describe what they need and what they're going through.

And that's okay. Sending you all my love and hoping that you get an awesome team on board to help you minimize the fallout from something like this.

 First thing I just want to say to you as the parent, I am so sorry that this has happened to your child and in effect to you that you are having to address this and navigate it and figure out what to do and what to say. There is no doubt that this is one of the most awful things that can happen to a person.

but I do want you to hear that there is a very big recovery difference for a child who has a supportive caregiver who believes them and helps them navigate through their trauma. And a child who is dismissed, ignored, not believed, shamed, et cetera, all sexual abuse is. Something that a child will carry with them and have to work through.

It doesn't have to become a part of who they are. It doesn't have to become a part of their identity. If you as a parent are able to successfully help them navigate their trauma, the first message you really want your child to absorb is that they did the right thing by telling you to make sure they know you're proud of them for sharing that.

It must have been scary and took a lot of courage, but that you are deeply.  deeply in their court and will help them navigate whatever needs to be navigated around this and that they did the right thing by telling you. The second thing you're gonna need to do is something you're gonna do internally, which is you need to calm your body.

And this sounds a little strange because you want your child to know that you care, but if you aren't calm, you're going to be. Of, and there's a grief as a parent that is our own grief when we haven't been able to protect our child from a predator of some form. But that's not theirs to carry. That's ours to carry and to work through with the other adults in our life.

And we're gonna calm our bodies down so that we can be curious. Ask your child to tell you the story of what happened as they tell you that story. Pay attention. To what they are feeling. They might be feeling numb and in shock. They might be feeling sad, they might be feeling ashamed. They might be feeling angry.

They might be feeling scared. Notice what their body states are in response to the story and try to stay with them where they have. Are, while this story is tragic and sad, if your child is numb and you start bawling your eyes out, it will be overwhelming to them. They will be not only trying to handle this thing that's happened to them, they'll now be trying to handle your response to this thing that's happened to them after you've listened to them tell the story of what happened and to the best of their ability or their willingness at that.

then you wanna empathize with the feelings that they shared. Like, I can see why you're feeling flooded, overwhelmed, scared, sad, embarrassed. I can see why those feelings are there. And then you're gonna wanna help them separate the feelings that are actually theirs to hold, and the feelings that belong either to their perpetrator or the situation you might say to them.

Totally understand how having something like that happen to you could trigger some shame. It feels like what they did was yucky, and so you're afraid that that makes you yucky. But I want to be clear that you are not yucky, that you had no control, and what happened to you was not your fault or a reflection on you.

That is something about the other person and what they're going through that they need to work out that's not on you. Or if they're scared, you would say, oh, I can see why you're feeling so scared. I didn't know this was happening and I wasn't able to protect you before, and so you're afraid it might happen again.

I am not scared that it's gonna happen again because I'm a grownup and I know there are things that we can do to prevent this person from having access to you again and make sure that you're safe. Or if they're scared about this person getting into big, big trouble, et cetera, you can. , I understand that you are an incredibly caring heart and you don't want anyone to get in trouble, and I don't want anyone to get in trouble, but I do want everyone to get the help they need.

And sometimes the help that people need is different. It might be that they, they need to be held accountable in some way. That might be the help they need so that they don't hurt themselves or anyone else anymore. But that's not your responsibility. That's. Responsibility. Do not under any circumstance threaten to harm the person who harmed them because when we become violent, we actually are engaging in the same act that was happened to our child.

It may not be sexual violence, but it is violence. We don't want our children to come to us and fear or find that we have that same instinct to dominate another person instead of to take care of them. The next thing you do is you ask your. , what can I do to help you feel believed, supported, and safe right now?

If this happened at school, they may not want to go to school for the next day or two, or they may need your help talking to administration, changing classes, seating the situations, et cetera. Make a list of everything they're asking of you, even if you aren't going to be able to provide all of it. Make sure they feel that you want to and you are going to do your very best effort to give them what they need in this moment.

and then next step that you're gonna get some help because I'm telling you, I'm a therapist. I think about this stuff ad nauseum. This is not something I would navigate alone. It is something I would need to have an objective support in my process with my family so that I'm not so triggered in my own response that I am projecting that onto my kid or getting in the way of their healing process.

If this has happened to your. Reach out to a therapist. They may need to call cps. It may be a part of the process, but if this is not something that you have done, your, your relationship with your child is not a threat, and, and you can actually call CPS yourself and get what it's called, voluntary services.

And voluntary services basically means you get free resources from your state in order to help you with your child. I understand not everybody feels comfortable calling cps. I get you. I hear you. If that's not something, if that's something that's very terrifying to you that I want you to consider, who in your c.

can come in and support you and help you make decisions on how to handle the situation. Cuz every situation is unique. How you're gonna respond to a child disclosing about child to child interactions or abuse is gonna be different than how you're gonna respond to a child telling you that their teacher has sexually abused.

There are legal ramifications and all of the situations, and you want to make sure that you have a team of people helping you make these very tricky decisions. The last part of this conversation I want you to hear. , your kids are gonna be looking to you as to whether or not they're allowed to continue to talk about this.

Think about this and feel this. If your discomfort with this topic prevents them from feeling like they continue to process it, they will stall out in their processing. We wanna model to them by checking in with them, how are you doing about the abuse? How are you doing about what happened with so-and-so?

Have you been thinking about it? How's it affecting your heart? Your body, your self-image, your relationships? What is mentionable is manageable. Thank you, Mr. . That's a quote from him. As much as you can give space now that is different than being hypervigilant, waking up in the morning, how are you doing?

Are you okay? How are things going? That's overwhelming to a child, right? So you want to create this space, but respect their taking of space. Hey, would you like, is there anything you wanna share about this? Are there any ways you wanna open up about what's going on? Do you need some of my time? Like, I don't wanna talk about it right now.

He said, that's okay. We're gonna need to keep talking about it, because it was kind of a big. , but we can talk about it later. When would be an ideal time for us to talk about it or a setting for us to talk about it? Or what do you need first in order to be able to talk about it? And sometimes with certain kids and personalities, they're gonna need a week or two before they're gonna be able to really find the words, describe what they need and what they're going through.

And that's okay. Sending you all my love and hoping that you get an awesome team on board to help you minimize the fallout from something like this.

!7maZdGQE

Join the Attachment Nerd Herd

Complete access for $29

Similar to what you just watched

How to Help a Kid Process a Scary Event
1:24

Discover evidence-based techniques for helping children process traumatic events in a healthy way, including encouraging them to tell their story and avoiding avoidance, with guidance from expert Dr. Dan Siegel and clinical experience.

View
The First Step To Developing Empathy
00:20

Discover why emotional responsiveness and support are essential for developing empathy and resilience in your child in this informative video that debunks the myth that giving your child empathy will teach them that the world revolves around them.

View
Adore Your Kids Don’t Idealize Them
01:26

In this video, Dr. Ramani explains how being devalued as a child can lead to over-idealizing your own children, ultimately making them ill-equipped to handle life's challenges, and suggests that adoring and guiding them with boundaries and limits is a healthier approach.

View
Your free video usage has reached its limit.
Access this Video
Already a member? Login Here