A Few Pointers in Helping Trauma Outbursts

Dealing with sudden outbursts that arise from a traumatized child is difficult, even if one has had a great deal of trauma training. Issues surrounding trauma can be so very deep and challenging that it is sometimes very hard to know exactly what to do. 

Trauma triggers and being a trauma-informed parent

Some children need help socially and emotionally before entering school.I think it is helpful to just have a few simple pointers. Below is an article by Wendy Young of Kidlutions about this topic.

Trauma triggers are as unique as every child who experiences trauma,” Wendy Young explains. When trauma drives emotional pain, your child can feel out-of-control or over-the-top.  Consider these three fast things you can do to help your child get calm, amidst the explosion.

Listen as Wendy tells us how to be “trauma-informed.”

  1. Introduce rhythmic activities such as shooting baskets, bouncing a ball or doing simple tai chi movements for about 3 minutes.
  2. Lend the child your brain when they are feeling out of control. Model calm “coping skills” for the child, so they can co-regulate with you. You are a child’s best role-model when they have lost control. Don’t join them in the melt-down, be the BiGGER brain and compassionately help them.
  3. Speak in a soothing voice to appeal to their emotional brain.
  4. Use less words and more actions, speak non-verbally by moving slowly, walking to a table and starting to color or sitting down and quietly meditating or playing a musical instrument.
  5. Breathe deeply, even out loud, slowly encouraging better brain oxygenation for the upset child.
  6. Use your body and to communicate. “In the moment” of the outburst or melt-down, you might be motivated to give the child a lot of verbal direction, i.e “Joey, we agreed that when you felt upset, you would go to the beanbag and listen to music,” (TOO MANY WORDS).  The emotional brain, “The Caveman” does not respond well to overwhelming words when it is lit on fire.

Use your calm body, and not many words to provide direction, slowly walk to the bean bag yourself, or pick up the headset and bring it to the child. Stand near the child with the head set in your out-stretched hand. Wait ’til the child is calm enough to engage a bit of his frontal lobes to see the head set as a resource.

It’s all about your non-verbal communication until the brain calms down.

Then you can circle back and talk to “The Thinker.” A few words such as, “This is a tough moment,” “It feels infuriating right now,” “I’m going to breathe now to help calm my brain and body,” are enough words for the moment.

Wendy also has a brief video that you can watch that is very helpful.  If you would like to know more please go to: and you will be able to hear Wendy talk about this very important issue for children who are traumatized.

I appreciate Wendy’s simple approach giving us what trauma looks like from the eyes of a child.  As we get closer to understanding her experience, we can better communicate to help her calm as she processes a situation that may be traumatizing.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network


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