When a child experiences a traumatic event it is often hard for them to cope.
After a traumatic event, children may struggle with difficulty sleeping, anxiety, not being able to focus at school or even with their friends, or acting out behaviors such as aggression or tantrums. It can be very difficult for caregivers to know how to help children with these struggles.
An accident, an illness of the child or a close family member, a death of a family member, a dog bite, or abuse are some traumatic events that children can experience. Adults often struggle to process these events themselves as well as help their children.
TF-CBT starts by teaching children strategies to relax when they are feeling anxious.
These strategies can also help children to be able to sleep and focus better. Common relaxation strategies including calming breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. After children have strategies to calm themselves when they feel discomfort, they work retelling what has happened to them in order to sort out their feelings. An emphasis is placed on looking at feels of guilt that children may have is re-framing those thoughts to reflect that the child is not responsible for the traumatic event.
Children are also taught to begin to cope with their fears related to the event in a step-by-step approach.
For example, a child who is afraid to ride in a car after being in a car accident might start sitting in a car for a short amount of time or going for a short trip while using relaxation breathing as needed. Children who have been abused are taught ways to keep themselves safe. Caregivers work as a team with their child to learn strategies.
TF-CBT is a short-term, evidence based therapy that has been used to help many children. For more information, you can read some of our other posts on Trauma-Focused CBT.
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