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Using Trauma-Informed Parenting to Nurture Healthy Family Relationships


According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (SAMHSA), two-thirds of 16-year-olds reported experiencing at least one traumatic experience in their lifetime. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) corroborates this fact with more specific statistics — 1 in 7 children experienced abuse or neglect in the year leading up to their findings.

However, traumatic events aren’t necessarily limited to physical abuse. The children in these studies also considered traumatic events such as school violence, the sudden loss of a loved one, or a life-threatening illness. Unfortunately, these experiences can harm your child and family dynamic in the following ways.

What Trauma Can Do To a Child

The SAMHSA Child Welfare division lists the following as effects of trauma on children:

  • Effects on the body: Chronic illness, can’t control physical stress responses
  • Effects on the brain: Impaired memory, difficulty concentrating and learning
  • Effects on emotions: Low self-esteem, anxiety, trust issues
  • Effects on behavior: Impulse control issues, aggression, substance abuse

When trauma goes untreated, your child can experience any or all of the above. They’ll grow up in a constant state of stress and fear that impacts the quality of their life. In addition, building authentic relationships with people, even their parents and siblings, is adversely impacted.

You probably won’t be able to protect your children from ever experiencing trauma. However, you can be prepared to help them navigate it healthily and come out on the other side healed, happy, and thriving.

How Trauma-informed Care Can Help

Trauma-informed care is a parenting approach rooted in understanding trauma, its effects on children, and how to respond to it. With it, you can deliver the appropriate support to help your children mend their health and well-being after certain experiences.

You’ll be familiar with how to help them cope with the trauma they’ve experienced. As a result, your children can recover and family relationships get better.

Trauma-informed care is also about creating a safe, stable environment for your children to be vulnerable and grow in. In an environment like this, you can build trust and connection that promotes healing and strong family bonds.

Tips for Using Trauma-Informed Care to Strengthen Family Bonds

Though trauma-informed parenting seems like it would be difficult to implement, it actually isn’t. The below practices are simple and easy to adopt. Use them to create nurturing environments that foster resilience and healing in your children and aid a tight-knit family.

Study the effects of trauma on health and well-being

As mentioned above, trauma-informed care is rooted in understanding how trauma shows up in children and how to best respond.

For example, trauma can affect your brain by targeting areas that are responsible for emotions and fear, causing you to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight. It can affect your memory and learning. Your pre-frontal cortex can take a hit too, causing you to sense high levels of danger when the threat isn’t that significant.

Also, because one’s brain isn’t fully developed until their mid-twenties, childhood trauma is especially harmful. Children are more likely to express learning difficulties, have issues with their neurotransmitters, and experience a disruption in their stress response because of trauma.

Understanding what happens when a child experiences trauma helps you support your child in a more meaningful way. Patience and empathy will be at the forefront of your reactions rather than frustration and anger because you know they’re likely reacting to a traumatic experience.

Understand your child’s trauma triggers

It’s important to not only know what trauma your child has experienced but to also know what triggers memories of and harmful reactions to that trauma. Triggers can range based on the child and the trauma experienced, but many take place during social events where children often get overwhelmed. Although you shouldn’t necessarily toss your child into the deep end of their triggers, you shouldn’t cut them out of your life either. Instead, you should find accommodations to any sensitivities they have, as well as ways to cope with them.

When you notice your child displaying behaviors that indicate a trauma is surfacing, take note of what’s going on around them. What could’ve potentially triggered this behavior based on what you know about the trauma they experienced?

Be sure to be there for your child in a calm, positive way until they’ve let the behavior run its course. After that, discuss what happened. Ask about what they were feeling in those moments and why they started feeling that way.

As you learn about your child’s trauma triggers, document them along with notes on how to move through them based on the discussions you have with your child. If you’re going to a social event, be sure to let the other parents know about any triggers they should be aware of and how they can help.

Spend more time together

Your child’s ability to navigate trauma and continue growing into adulthood depends so much on the relationships they have with you and the rest of the family.

Healthy relationships are critical in ensuring your child feels loved, supported, and comfortable enough to come to you when they’re having difficulties with trauma. So, spend as much time together as you can.

Go on local adventures to museums, new restaurants, and sporting events. Enjoy the great outdoors together on camping trips, hikes, and nature walks. Stay in for movie or family game nights.

Find ways you can all spend time together so that your child gets much-needed emotional support, affection, and communication.


No parent, even foster parents, want their kids to go through traumatic events. But even with that mindset, you shouldn’t be unprepared if the worst-case scenario does occur. Instead, adopt trauma-informed care to give your child a better chance of not just surviving trauma, but thriving through it.

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