Many times, teens can appear defiant and disrespectful when they are really only responding to a previous traumatic events. Unfortunately, many teenagers experience trauma during their developmental years, including physical and/or sexual abuse or neglect. This type of abuse not only causes physical and emotional damage, but also damage to the brain.

Because of changes that occur in the brain during a traumatic event, people can perceive benign or neutral situations as threatening. Trauma reminders are cues that prompt a memory of a past experience and can include sights, sounds, smells, people, places, words and objects. These reminders can trigger fear or stress in a teenager that leads to irrational thinking and possibly out-of-control behavior. Recognizing and helping young people find new ways to respond to these cues and move forward is an important part of the healing process.

Often, when parents know that their child has been abused or neglected in some way, they respond by blaming themselves, becoming overprotective, becoming overpermissive, experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress or minimizing and denying the abuse. A key for parents whose child or teen has been abused is to seek help for the child as early as possible. Also, children who have experienced trauma need to know that their parent is strong enough to handle what they are going through and support them along the way. This type of trust in a strong parent can gradually help to alleviate some of the fear associated with the abuse. If you as a parent are having trouble facing or talking about a traumatic event, your child will greatly benefit by your seeking help from a professional.

Compass Rose Academy Director and Clinician Mike Haarer is trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy. If you or someone you know is struggling to recover from a traumatic event or if you would like to speak with a licensed mental health counselor about your family’s situation, please contact the Compass Rose Academy today.