Helping Your Child Cope with the Trauma of Child Sexual Abuse & Recover
In the aftermath of a sexual abuse, the role of a parent becomes extremely important in paving the way for the child to get back to a normal life. It is crucial that you manage your feelings so you can focus on creating a safe environment for your child which is free from confusion, judgment, guilt, blame and fear.
Below are a few ways which could help you and your child deal with some of the issues you might face post the abuse:
- Continuous communication with the child is crucial to ensure that you are in touch with their feelings post the abuse. Acknowledge their fears if any, help them ventilate, let them talk at their own pace. At every stage you must constantly reinforce that you trust them, applaud them for their courage to talk about their feelings and reassure them that you will keep them safe and no body will harm them.
- Dealing with sexual abuse of your own child is not an easy task as a parent. You have to show a brave face in front of your child, be patient, address their fears while you feel overwhelmed and emotional internally. Make sure you talk to someone, process your feelings as you help your child to cope. It is extremely important to take care of yourself as you care for your child. If needed, seek professional help from a counselor for you and your child.
- Confiding in a few trusted friends and family members about what happened might help you reduce your burden and provide a safety net for your child. However be careful about who needs to know about the abuse. If your child is of school age, then it may be helpful for the class teacher to know which will help the teacher deal with the behavioral changes your child may display. If you have a family doctor which your child visits regularly, it may be helpful to tell them that your child has been sexually abused.
- It is extremely important for you and the people who know about the abuse to maintain confidentiality and treat your child with sensitivity. Make sure that your child doesn’t feel humiliated or let down when you tell other people about the abuse. Ensure you communicate to your child as to why they need to know. Take the child’s consent and respect their opinion.
- If you think that the child’s behavior and symptoms of trauma extends beyond 3 months, then it could be a cause of concern. In such a scenario, it is suggested that you seek help from a professional. You may feel that your child is more comfortable talking to a special teacher, relative or an older sibling rather than a counselor. It may also be useful to remember that your child may need counseling at various points in their life. Events such as child’s first adult sexual relationship, marriage, child birth and others may trigger memories which require counseling.
- Whether your child is a toddler or a teenager, they will want people around them who are comforting and who believe them. Plan activities together with your child and show that you care for them. At this time, your child will need reassurances from you and understanding from others. While some children will seek extra comfort, some, especially young people may want to spend some time alone to assess what happened. It is important to respect your child’s wishes and be sensitive to their mood changes and emotional needs.
- Children like routine. You should strive to make their day as planned and consistent as possible. From school to homework, playtime to dinner, TV time to bed time, structure the child’s day which will go on to reiterate that their caregiver is ‘in control’ and will help them feel safe and protected.
- Often children who have experienced abuse feel that they have no control over their surroundings. So, giving them some element of control in their daily lives will help. These can be things in their daily lives such as planning activities, games, food and dressing choices etc which will make them feel more comfortable and confident. The more you include children in decision-making that affects them the better it will be for their recovery.
(Source – You and Your Child)