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2005 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 10, No. 3
June 2005

Responding to a Child's Acute PTSD Reaction

Following is advice for child welfare workers and birth, foster, and adoptive parents.

  • If you can, find out ahead of time what upsets a child and how to calm the child down.

  • Use calm words and, when appropriate, gentle touch; reassure the child that he or she is safe.

  • Remind the child that you are there to take care of him and keep him safe.

  • Remind the child (and yourself) that these difficult episodes will pass, and, in time should become less frequent and less severe.

  • Don’t shame the child for “babyish” behavior that is young for his or her age.

  • If certain things trigger a PTSD reaction (e.g., dark rooms, closed doors, TV violence) identify these things so that you can help the child anticpate these in the future and learn to cope with them.

  • Respect the child’s wishes about whether to talk about the trauma.

Sources: MBHP, 2003; McNally et al., 2003.

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