Child Traumatic Stress Disorder. What Is It? What Can You Do About It?

Child Traumatic Stress Disorder. What Is It? What Can You Do About It?

Find out facts on child traumatic stress disorder and what you can do about it.


Monica Spear

How do you comfort children who have lost a loved one?

What is Child Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Sometimes when a child has experienced one or more traumatic events, she has reactions that continue and affect her daily life long after the events have ended. This is called Child Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD). CTSD may be characterised by the child:

  • becoming very upset for long periods, depressed, or anxious;
  • showing changes in the way they behave, or in their eating and sleeping habits;
  • having aches and pains;
  • having difficulties at school, problems relating to others, or not wanting to be with others or take part in activities.
  • Older children may use drugs or alcohol, behave in risky ways, or engage in unhealthy sexual activity.
Monica Spear

Watch out for the signs of CTSD

Helping a child recover from CTSD

If a child you know has experienced a traumatic incident and is displaying symptoms such as those mentioned above, it’s really important to seek appropriate help for him or her. How children recover from trauma depends a lot on the different ways their lives may have been affected by what happened. According to, cognitive-behavioural therapies have been proven effective at helping kids with CTSD. These therapies include features such as:

  • Teaching kids stress management and relaxation skills;
  • Creating a coherent narrative or story of what happened;
  • Correcting untrue ideas about what happened and why it happened;
  • Involving parents in creating optimal recovery environments.

Kids and bereavement

It can be really hard to explain death to a young child and know how to help kids cope with the loss. What and how much kids understand about death depends to a great extent on their age, life experiences, and personality. But there are a few important points to remember in all cases (information taken from

Explaining Death in a child’s terms:

Be honest with kids and encourage questions. It’s important to create an atmosphere of comfort and openness and give kids the message that there’s no one right or wrong way to feel. You might also share any spiritual beliefs you have about death.

Monica Spear

Teach children that it’s ok to cry to show grief or pain at the loss of a loved one

Mourning the Loss

Experts say it’s ok to let kids take part in any mourning rituals, such as a funeral, if they want to. But first, do explain what happens at a funeral or memorial and give the child (if old enough) to decide if she wants to go or not. Many adults worry about letting kids witness their own grief, pain, and tears about a death. But allowing a child to see your pain shows that crying is a natural reaction to emotional pain and loss. And it can make kids more comfortable sharing their feelings.

Do also remember that if you are unsure of how to help a child you know deal with bereavement or CTSD, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor who will be able to guide you to the appropriate channels to get suitable help.

For bereavement support in Singapore, see:



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