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How To Help A Traumatised Child Feel Safe

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Sunday, November 12, 2023

How To Help A Traumatised Child Feel Safe

Sunday, November 12, 2023

How To Help A Traumatised Child Feel Safe

How do you best help a traumatised child? This video explains what you can do to help… and why.

How can you help a traumatised child? This is one of the most difficult questions to be asked, because my heart breaks, feeling deeply for the child… and for those caring for them. As challenging as this is, there are ways to help them heal and live a full, loving life.

In the delicate journey of parenting, one of the greatest challenges is in knowing how to help a traumatised child find a sense of safety and belonging.

This is such a tough situation to be in and I understand your deep desire to create a haven of comfort for your little one. So in this blog post, we'll explore the path towards helping your child feel safe, step by step.

In the video below, we hear from a loving grandparent who, along with her husband, is now caring for their three and a half year old granddaughter who is overcoming trauma. In the video below we discuss her experiences with her little one going into flight or fight mode and how she can help her to learn to trust.

The Challenge:

To begin, our beautiful carer explains her challenge in her own words:

“So I have my granddaughter in my care and she suffers from trauma. For an example, today she went to therapy. She came out and she was happy as ever.

Then there were two different people that she'd never seen before in the office. And straight away she went into fight or flight mode, climbed up me like a koala, and wouldn't look at anyone.

The counsellor tried to say, “It's okay, it's okay, you'll be fine”. And I'm having this happen all the time. If I go to the shop or at kindy, it happens. She's three and a half and it's not getting any better. She's still in fight or flight mode all the time.”


First of all, this is a really tough situation for a little one. I’m so sorry that she – or anyone – would have to go through this, and it’s a difficult situation for carers, too.

Let’s start by asking an important question:

What does this little one need most right now?

She wants to feel safe. So safety is her number one need right now.

And what does safety look like for her?

In this scenario, safety is her grandparents/carers. They're her safety people.

So now we are going to help expand her safe zone a little bit at a time. Not too much. We're not going to throw her under the bus and have it happen too much at once, because then she'll lose trust. I want to do it gradually, gently, and with a lot of love.

She's only three and a half. She needs lots of love and affection and to really feel like she is safe.

I want to expand that by bringing someone else in… maybe into your house. Or maybe you go somewhere, you and your partner and her, and one other person who you know is there.

We’re just going to gradually introduce her to other human beings because at the moment she doesn't feel safe anywhere except with her grandparents. She doesn't trust anyone else. She might trust her therapist because she went in there.

This carer explained that she doesn’t go in the therapist’s room with her. Her granddaughter didn't trust her therapist in the beginning, but she built that confidence. And there's the child safety officer that takes her in for her visits with her mum, who she trusts also.

So there are four people that this little one trusts.

Look For Examples:

Now here's the thing too: they're great examples because they're little reference points to help her realise that, “Oh, remember when you didn't really want to go in at first and now you just go in and you chat and you're amazing in there now.”

That way she can see how far she's come and so she can see what's possible for herself. We definitely want to give her a benchmark so that she can look back and go, “Oh, well yeah, I didn't like the therapist at first, but now I love her. She's really awesome and I feel safe around her.”

You can say, “You know, you felt uncomfortable at first and fair enough. And now look at you. Wow. Look at you! You're very brave. You're very courageous. Look at you. You're a brave girl, aren't you? Yeah. And you can do tricky things sometimes when you feel uncomfortable… you can handle it. Well done to you.”

Now, it may be worth changing the word from “you’re safe” to “you’re brave” – use whatever language your child uses.

(NB: If you haven’t already seen it, watch this quick video where I explain the importance of using your child’s language.) 

If you’re not sure what words land best with the child you can test it out and see if they’re responsive. Many kids do respond to “brave” because it's empowering to say, “I'm brave”. It's not about “I'm safe”. Safe can sometimes even trigger thoughts such as, “What? I might not be safe?”

Trust-Building Through Play:  

In play at home, her granddaughter builds a Lego house and she said, “That's our safe house and you and Papa are in it.”

So in this case, maybe changing the word to brave would be worth trying.

And these are beautiful examples here because if she's got the little safe house and she's got little people or toys to role play with. We can introduce a toy and have a toy friend come over and visit her. Then she can talk to that person. You could say, “What are you going to say to them? Oh, hello, I'm so-and-so”, and have fun.

Have a lot of lightness around it… a lot of love and joy around meeting someone new. You can say things like, “Oh, who's going to answer the door to this person? What are you going to say? Ooh, do you want to do a funny ‘hello’ when they come to the door?”

The important thing is to just have some fun and creativity around it with your little one. The positive association is through toys and through play. It's a beautiful way with the younger ones, to have a positive association with making friends or meeting someone new.

How does that sound?

In this particular case, when her granddaughter does that play, she'll only use two Barbies because it's only between the child and her Grandma. So if she starts adding that extra person in role play, it'll help her feel a lot more at ease in reality.

Make It Fun:

Initially, one of them could be a funny clown or something like that; someone funny or a silly something.

The aim is that it's fun and you've just lightened it. You've introduced that idea of expanding her circle through play and fun. Remember that the primary goal here is to help her feel safe, with lots of love and joy.

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Having experienced anxiety personally as a child and parent, along with raising two anxious kids, working in the school system, and my own business supporting hundreds of anxious kids and their parents, I’ve seen and experienced what works and what doesn’t.

How can you help a traumatised child? This is one of the most difficult questions to be asked, because my heart breaks, feeling deeply for the child… and for those caring for them. As challenging as this is, there are ways to help them heal and live a full, loving life.

In the delicate journey of parenting, one of the greatest challenges is in knowing how to help a traumatised child find a sense of safety and belonging.

This is such a tough situation to be in and I understand your deep desire to create a haven of comfort for your little one. So in this blog post, we'll explore the path towards helping your child feel safe, step by step.

In the video below, we hear from a loving grandparent who, along with her husband, is now caring for their three and a half year old granddaughter who is overcoming trauma. In the video below we discuss her experiences with her little one going into flight or fight mode and how she can help her to learn to trust.

The Challenge:

To begin, our beautiful carer explains her challenge in her own words:

“So I have my granddaughter in my care and she suffers from trauma. For an example, today she went to therapy. She came out and she was happy as ever.

Then there were two different people that she'd never seen before in the office. And straight away she went into fight or flight mode, climbed up me like a koala, and wouldn't look at anyone.

The counsellor tried to say, “It's okay, it's okay, you'll be fine”. And I'm having this happen all the time. If I go to the shop or at kindy, it happens. She's three and a half and it's not getting any better. She's still in fight or flight mode all the time.”


First of all, this is a really tough situation for a little one. I’m so sorry that she – or anyone – would have to go through this, and it’s a difficult situation for carers, too.

Let’s start by asking an important question:

What does this little one need most right now?

She wants to feel safe. So safety is her number one need right now.

And what does safety look like for her?

In this scenario, safety is her grandparents/carers. They're her safety people.

So now we are going to help expand her safe zone a little bit at a time. Not too much. We're not going to throw her under the bus and have it happen too much at once, because then she'll lose trust. I want to do it gradually, gently, and with a lot of love.

She's only three and a half. She needs lots of love and affection and to really feel like she is safe.

I want to expand that by bringing someone else in… maybe into your house. Or maybe you go somewhere, you and your partner and her, and one other person who you know is there.

We’re just going to gradually introduce her to other human beings because at the moment she doesn't feel safe anywhere except with her grandparents. She doesn't trust anyone else. She might trust her therapist because she went in there.

This carer explained that she doesn’t go in the therapist’s room with her. Her granddaughter didn't trust her therapist in the beginning, but she built that confidence. And there's the child safety officer that takes her in for her visits with her mum, who she trusts also.

So there are four people that this little one trusts.

Look For Examples:

Now here's the thing too: they're great examples because they're little reference points to help her realise that, “Oh, remember when you didn't really want to go in at first and now you just go in and you chat and you're amazing in there now.”

That way she can see how far she's come and so she can see what's possible for herself. We definitely want to give her a benchmark so that she can look back and go, “Oh, well yeah, I didn't like the therapist at first, but now I love her. She's really awesome and I feel safe around her.”

You can say, “You know, you felt uncomfortable at first and fair enough. And now look at you. Wow. Look at you! You're very brave. You're very courageous. Look at you. You're a brave girl, aren't you? Yeah. And you can do tricky things sometimes when you feel uncomfortable… you can handle it. Well done to you.”

Now, it may be worth changing the word from “you’re safe” to “you’re brave” – use whatever language your child uses.

(NB: If you haven’t already seen it, watch this quick video where I explain the importance of using your child’s language.) 

If you’re not sure what words land best with the child you can test it out and see if they’re responsive. Many kids do respond to “brave” because it's empowering to say, “I'm brave”. It's not about “I'm safe”. Safe can sometimes even trigger thoughts such as, “What? I might not be safe?”

Trust-Building Through Play:  

In play at home, her granddaughter builds a Lego house and she said, “That's our safe house and you and Papa are in it.”

So in this case, maybe changing the word to brave would be worth trying.

And these are beautiful examples here because if she's got the little safe house and she's got little people or toys to role play with. We can introduce a toy and have a toy friend come over and visit her. Then she can talk to that person. You could say, “What are you going to say to them? Oh, hello, I'm so-and-so”, and have fun.

Have a lot of lightness around it… a lot of love and joy around meeting someone new. You can say things like, “Oh, who's going to answer the door to this person? What are you going to say? Ooh, do you want to do a funny ‘hello’ when they come to the door?”

The important thing is to just have some fun and creativity around it with your little one. The positive association is through toys and through play. It's a beautiful way with the younger ones, to have a positive association with making friends or meeting someone new.

How does that sound?

In this particular case, when her granddaughter does that play, she'll only use two Barbies because it's only between the child and her Grandma. So if she starts adding that extra person in role play, it'll help her feel a lot more at ease in reality.

Make It Fun:

Initially, one of them could be a funny clown or something like that; someone funny or a silly something.

The aim is that it's fun and you've just lightened it. You've introduced that idea of expanding her circle through play and fun. Remember that the primary goal here is to help her feel safe, with lots of love and joy.

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