How to Help Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

mother kissing daughter on forehead at home

Trauma is defined as a “deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”

Sadly, many suffer from a variety of deeply distressing and disturbing experiences from health issues, accidents, natural disasters, and even physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse. Pain caused by divorce and death is rated as some of the leading stressors in life. And for many, this stress comes during infancy or in the formative years of childhood.

From the beginning of time, people have been asking why God allows suffering. If God is good, why do bad things happen? There are no satisfactory answers to these good questions on this side of heaven. We will not always understand God’s ways. 

We want to avoid pain at all costs. Even Jesus, who was God in the flesh, asked for another way when he was going to the cross, he knew that his whole purpose was to come and die. And yet, in Matthew 26:39 He cries out, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me yet not as I will, but as you will” (Hebrews 12:2).” 

Our first response in leading our children after a traumatic experience should be to go to God and His word. It is helpful to look at how He has worked in the past in a variety of traumatic situations. Paul reminds us in Romans 15:4, “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Trauma impacts us. but it’s our response to trauma that shapes us. 

Post-traumatic stress is a common occurrence, but we can also experience post-traumatic growth. Suffering can be one of our greatest teachers, and Jesus is our example. Hebrews 5:7-9 says, “In the days of His flesh He offered up both prayers and supplications, with loud crying and tears, to the one able to save him from death. And he was heard because of his piety. Although he was a son He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” We would not have salvation from our sins without the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

Biblical truth for traumatized kids

  • God welcomes children. “Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them to come” (Matthew 19:14).
  • God sees. He makes himself known in this way to Hagar and her son, who were in the wilderness about to die. No doubt about it, they were traumatized. And it is at that point that God introduces Himself as the God who sees. 
  • God is a father to the fatherless and he is a defender of the widow (Psalm 68:5). He will sustain. He will help. He will provide for. 
  • God cares about your children. He commands His people never to mistreat a fatherless child. But he doesn’t just stop with that command. He promises that if people do mistreat those children in need, he will hear the child’s cry (Exodus 22).
  • He turns evil into good, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

Turning to Scripture for hope

Satan knew that God was going to send the Messiah and he did everything he could to stop that. Imagine the trauma in the land when King Herod was killing all baby boys under the age of two. And Moses’ mom puts Moses in a basket to preserve his life. Moses grew up in the palace of Pharaoh, but God was working these traumatic experiences for His glory. 

Esther, who was an orphan raised by her uncle, Mordecai, but Esther was chosen for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).

Daniel was separated from his parents and moved to another country as a young teen. He took a stand over and over again in his life and God granted him favor and compassion. When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for not obeying the King’s orders, God saved him (Daniel 6:22). 

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and for 20 years he experienced tragedy and trauma and yet God was at work through it all (Genesis 37).

6 ways a mom can help her child after trauma 

  1. Do not discount the impact of a mother. Be there for your child. Listen to your child. Provide a safe environment conducive for them to share.
  2. Pray. Trauma often opens the door for Satan to enter, and you will have to fight. You will fight a spiritual battle. Enlist prayer warriors into your life to battle the ongoing effects the enemy wants to have through this trauma.
  3. Maintain a victorious perspective. The greatest trauma is to let trauma continue to steal, kill, and destroy. Do not live with a victim mentality. 
  4. Teach your children the stories of others who have triumphed after tragedy. 
  5. Trust God and walk by faith. 
  6. Forgive and do not let bitterness take root. 

There is triumph after trauma. Moses led the people out of Egypt. Esther stopped the annihilation of the Jews. Daniel stood strong even when his people were in Babylon, and Joseph became the Prince of Egypt. 

Endure to the end. “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).