Children’s Behavioral Responses to Trauma

If you find that your child demonstrates some of the responses below, and continues to be unable to move past the trauma within a month or so, a referral to a mental health professional is recommended to help your child work through the traumatic event.


5 years and younger

  • Feelings of helplessness and passivity.
  • Regressive symptoms occur.
  • Denial of disturbing event.
  • Re-enactment through art and play with traumatic themes.
  • Nightmares.

6 years through 11 years

  • Clear thinking is reduced.
  • Fantasy plans of action increase.
  • Phobic responses.
  • Personality changes.
  • Obsessive re-enactment of the event.
  • Nightmares.

12 years through 17 years

  • Detachment, shame, guilt.
  • Post-traumatic acting out behavior.
  • Life-attitude changes (loss of interest).
  • Behaving as an adult who can take care of themselves without adult help (pseudo maturity).
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