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Caring for Kids Who Have Experienced Trauma

What is Child Traumatic Stress?

Trauma occurs when a child experiences an intense event that threatens or causes harm to his or her emotional and physical well-being.

Causes of Trauma

  • Exposure to a natural disaster.
  • Witnessing or being the victim of violence, serious injury or physical or sexual abuse.
  • Accidents or medical procedures.
  • Separation from family (including siblings, school, neighborhood and house of worship) and being placed in foster care, even when this is a safer setting than home.

How Might My Child React?

ethnic mother and young girl reading
Caregivers are a child’s best support in
recovery from trauma 

Children may react in both physiological and psychological ways:

  • Heart rate may increase
  • May begin to sweat
  • May feel agitated and hyperalert
  • May feel “butterflies” in their stomach
  • May become emotionally upset
  • May be depressed or shut down

Is this Normal?

Yes, although these reactions are distressing, they are normal. They’re our body’s way of protecting us and preparing us to confront danger. However, some children may have longer lasting reactions that can interfere with their physical and emotional health.

Behavioral Challenges of Traumatized Children

National Traumatic Stress Network Resource Parent Curriculum
The Invisible Suitcase: Behavioral Challenges of Traumatized Children

Further Guidance and Resources

Sesame Street Workshop provides free and bilingual resources to help guide foster parents as they create a safe and loving home for their kids. Resources include activities, articles, and video clips that feature a new Sesame Street Muppet in foster care character, Karli, and her foster parents, Dalia and Clem.