Child Trauma and Bullying Counseling and Therapy
Child Trauma and Bullying Therapy
Lasting relief from trauma requires a comprehensive approach involving the whole family.
Understanding you and your Childs Trauma–our therapists can help you through.
It can be difficult to learn that a child has experienced a trauma. We as parents try to do our best to protect our kids from danger, and yet it happens regardless of our wishes. In an ideal world, no child would experience a trauma, but unfortunately for a sizable number of children it has become a typical event.
Because so few people openly talk about traumas that they or their children have experienced, many more people than you think in your own life likely have been wrestling with the effects of trauma for some time. While many people find their own ways to cope, a growing number are talking openly about their experiences and seeking help. At LifeStance, we take the tools and tips that we present to traumatized first responders and we are able to adapt it to our work with children and adult civilians.
Just as we approach trauma in adults, trauma in children isn’t just limited to the most extreme cases of traumatic events such as child abuse. Children can be traumatized by any number of events that overwhelm their ability to cope with daily life.
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OUR THERAPY APPROACHES
Child Trauma can be many things:
- Psychological, physical or sexual abuse
- Witnessing or experiencing community or school violence (traffic accidents, local tragedies)
- Life threatening illness diagnosis
- Loss of a loved one
- Parental separation – injury, deployment, divorce, abandonment
Possible Effects of Childhood Trauma:
When you expand trauma to the scope that we do at LifeStance, you can estimate that around ⅔ of children cope with a trauma before they turn 16. 
The effect that trauma has on the development of young minds can be very significant if left unaddressed. Oftentimes, children don’t think clearly about the event after the fact and tend to have a few cognitive distortions around the experience. A common thought distortion is “I deserved it” and if unchallenged, children that believe this can develop low self esteem. Low self esteem contributes to a large number of struggles personally, academically and socially.
Is Trauma being caused by bullying in childhood?
The most common type of trauma that students experience (in sheer number) is bullying. To some extent it is healthy for kids to push and prod each other to learn about boundaries, emotional limits and the consequences for crossing either. In some cases this can escalate to persistent bullying.
Why does bullying happen to kids? Bullying is part lack of empathy from other kids (which as a parent you can’t directly deal with), and low self esteem in the bullied.
Let’s be clear that we don’t blame the bullied kid for getting bullied, but self esteem and bullying act in a cycle. A child with low self esteem doesn’t push back against bullying because they agree with what the bullies say to some extent. Bullies take advantage of this and push more, in turn reducing the child’s self esteem, and so on.
During a divorce too, if there is a lot of fighting between parents. Kids can internalize that. When children are young they are deeply attached to their parents, so when they see parents fight they internalize that. If they think parents hate each other they can begin to hate themselves. As children grow into teens this becomes less of a dynamic, but still has an effect to some extent.
Common types of bullying that children face:
- Physical bullying – harm to the child of things they own and care about
- Verbal bullying – taunts, threats, etc.
- Relationship bullying – Spreading rumors and group exclusion
- Cyberbullying – aggression sent over phone, email, video games.
Bullying can also imitate what is happening in the house or in the family. Not necessarily violence against each other, but watching parents smear each other shows kids that doing that same thing at school is okay.
Cyberbullying and Child Trauma
Cyberbullying takes what used to be bullying limited to certain hours at school and turns it into a 24/7 issue. When kids can’t even take a break from the bullying it can wear them down dramatically.
We have seen an increase in our practice of cyberbullying over video games like fortnite or roblox. Often the anonymity and physical distance between children playing these games gives kids license to be as mean as they want without seeing the consequences.
It’s common for parents to come to us saying:
‘I walk by when my son is playing Fortnite and I hear all these vile and mean things. How should I treat this?’
Many parents jump to judge that their child is causing issues without really understanding why they are being so aggressive and what it means to their friends. Some playful taunting that you expect to see in in-person sports can happen online and that’s okay.
However, if your child’s words will harm more than help their friend or their friend’s parent, they should reconsider what they say online. Kids across the country are being suspended for threatening others online, talk to your kid about news like this, let them know that a silly comment can have big consequences. You can also set limits such as making sure that your child only plays with kids that he can play nicely with. Like with our work on behavior management, we recommend that the rules you set are clear and enforced evenly.
Social Media and Trauma
Social media provides a major source of bullying in the life of modern children (especially teens). We recommend watching “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix in order to see first hand the effects of social media on the teens shown in the docudrama. It depicts a family struggling with the effects of social media. Teens struggle with putting their ‘best self forward’ and judging their worth based on how many likes they get. A few mean comments on these daily ritual posts stand out for the rest of the week. We see similar struggles in our work with teens almost universally.
Though it can feel like an extra job it can be helpful for parents to follow their child on social media closely (see: set up alerts for specific posts) to keep tabs on any bullying situations as they develop. It can be nice to nip these in the bud and prevent your child from internalizing negative interactions.
The LifeStance Approach to Therapy for Child Trauma and Bullying
The core of our approach to trauma is to help children reinterpret the event that caused the trauma, and to analyze the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that came from that.
In order to get clients to rethink negative thoughts surrounding trauma (“it was my fault”) we deconstruct and reconstruct the personal trauma.
Of course younger kids don’t respond well to sitting on a couch and talking things out, they prefer to play. So we combine play and art therapy with our trauma informed approaches (such as trauma focused CBT and EMDR) for best results. We’ve found that triggering the creative side of a child’s brain better brings the emotional side of their brain out as well. Once we can let children talk in the language they are comfortable with, we are best able to help.
What Parents Can Do:
- Make sure that your child feels safe now. Explain how they are protected and what to do when they feel unsafe
- Don’t shame or guilt the child, try to make it clear that experiencing a traumatic event isn’t their fault. Be open and honest with them around this.
- Set clear limits
If you child is able to talk about their life and the events in it, start with talking to them regarding bullying at school. Get to know what form the bullying is taking at school. Ask how they feel about what is happening. What do they think about the bullies? Do they believe what the bullying is saying about them?
Throughout this process be empathetic and reassuring, don’t make the incident smaller than it is, let them know that you think this is serious. Let them know that bullying is wrong. Period.
Next make a plan. Discuss with your child what to do if something like this happens again. Also let your child know what you will do personally. Make it clear that how they react changes how the situation develops.
Overall, be sure to educate your child about bullying, what it looks like, what it means and how it happens. Many children (and parents) think of bullying as between one bully and one victim, but really bullying takes a systematic approach. A significant part of bullying is the ‘bystander effect’ the kids who stand by and don’t act. Talking with your child about what to do when they see others being bullied is an important part of creating an anti-bullying culture and behavior.
Break-free and begin your journey to
There is a future life where trauma does not control your day. Imagine yourself feeling calm, confident and ready to handle new situations with ease. The tools to living the life you have always envisioned are here, at your fingertips.
LifeStance Health can help.
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