Grief and Trauma in Children, 101

As adults we are often able to communicate verbally, and sometimes forget that children are still developing this form of communication. This is often why therapists working with children will use play-therapy; children can express their feelings and communicate them, but they often struggle with accurately “naming” or associating words to their feelings. This is developmentally appropriate, and can be affected by disturbing or tragic events that they witness or survive.

Upsetting events for children may vary from child to child, or even child to adult. In the first link, Dr. Steven J. Berkowitz, MD, discusses the subjective experiences of a child, and how they may interpret certain events as being traumatic. It is important to keep in mind that witnessing or experiencing a distressing event can affect the child, but they may not always be able to verbally communicate it to parents, caregivers, or adults. In the second article, Child Mind Institute trauma expert Dr. Jerry Bubrick discusses some of the signs of trauma adults can look for in children. Understanding the non-verbal messages the child may be communicating can lead to early detection of how the child is coping with the experience. This can also help the care-giver determine if additional support and professional help is necessary to assist the child in healing cognitively, psychologically, and emotionally from the experience.

Jordan Huber, Birch Psychology