You are seeking help for your child who has been sexually abused
Child sexual abuse survivors like your child, experience many conflating and confusing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Shame, guilt, sadness, hopelessness, anger, mistrust, bad, ugly, unsafe, unloved, unworthy, and nasty are just some of the ways your child may describe how she feels about themselves. On the other hand for children who are younger or who experienced sexual abuse before they were verbal, they may not have the language to express what happened to them or how it made them feel. Children speak through their behavior. Part of the healing process will be to help your child to come to terms with her overwhelming feelings, and begin to understand how these events have re-wired her brain in a way that her behavior is a reflection of constantly being in fight-flight-freeze mode. I will help your child learn to self regulate and for you and your child to have a safe and trusting relationship Here are a list of symptoms your child may present with:
- Bed wetting or daytime accidents, including urine and feces (enuresis or encopresis)
- Difficulty Separating from you
- Hypervigilance or always being on guard
- Low Self Esteem
- Change in Appetite
- Complaining of aches and pains (somatic complaints)
Your child's abuse does not need to define them
As a parent you worry a lot about how your child's sexual violation will affect them as they grows up. Your worried that they will be re-victimized, that he will always hate herself or feel she is disgusting, and you worry that they will grow up and just be unhappy.
This worry has driven you to seek help for your child now, so that she doesn't have to continue to suffer. Bravo! As your child's therapist I work with them where he is at. I do not push her or force her to tell her story, for many children have a difficult time understanding sexual violations. They understand that it hurt and made them feel uncomfortable but they also experience love and care for the perpetrator. These feelings are normal and also confusing. With the abuser away from your child your they may feel guilty because they got someone they cared about in trouble. Your childr is often mourning the loss of this person as well. I help them understand that these feelings that they have are normal.
In therapy we work through all aspects of the trauma so your child can feel a sense of this chapter in her life ending and she's on to the next chapter. I help your child discover his boundaries and learn to advocate or vocalize his thoughts, feelings, and needs to you and other important people in his life. Where she feels safe to come to you with all parts of herself and know that you will love her unconditionally. I will help your child find her strengths and feel empowered.
"My daughter is having bad dreams and can't sleep. She doesn't always remember her nightmares and I don't know how to help her"
Nightmares are typical for children who experience abuse and those that don't. For the child who experienced sexual abuse the nightmares may be of past sexual violations or monsters who are coming to harm them. Nightmares are very scary for your daughter and she needs a lot of love and comfort in these moments. You can ask her to tell you about the nightmares but don't push if she doesn't remember them. Don't ask her leading questions just you listening and validating her fears is enough to smooth some of her fear away.
During this times she may seek comfort in sleeping with you or in the same room as you, which is ok. If she has a favorite stuffed animal or blanket those can bring her comfort as well. Remind your child that these are just dreams and that they cannot really hurt her even though in the moment it feels like she is really going to be harmed. Reassure her that you are there to protect her. Last keep track of her nightmares. You will often find that theres a pattern to when they come and then you can take preventive steps that might aid in staving them off. As your daughter continues to heal you will see the frequency of nightmares decrease and often even be alleviated.
Healing from sexual abuse is possible for your child. Your child doesn't have to continue to suffer or be haunted by this ghost.
How Trauma Presents Itself in Children?
- Impulsivity-acting without thinking
- Hyperactivity-they can't seem to sit still, focus, or they move quickly from one thing to the next
- Hypervigilance-this can look a lot like hyperactivity. Your child is constantly looking around the room, they don't pay attention to details, they seem jumpy and anxious
- Depression (in children this looks more like irritability than sadness, but sadness and feelings of worthlessness can also be present)
- Fears, Worries, and/or Phobias
- Sleep Challenges (such as: insomnia, restless/interrupted sleep, and nightmares/night terrors, difficulty falling asleep)
- Enuresis (day time and/or night time wetting after being potty trained)/Encopresis (difficulty controlling bowels/involuntary defecation)
- Regression (loss of previously mastered skills such as potty training, weening, wanting to sleep with parents, etc)
- And finally many of these children, particularly when the event happened at a younger age (in the womb, infancy, and/or toddler hood) or if the trauma happened repeatedly, have persisting physiological hyper-reactivity which results in a faster resting heart rate and/or borderline high blood pressure, metabolic challenges (not gaining weight despite how much they eat, overeating, or not eating, and/or a high or low body temperature.
- Remember not all children who have experienced trauma will develop PTSD and/or other trauma related symptoms.