Caring for Traumatized Teens

In February 2023, Christian Trauma Healing Network offered a webinar featuring author, counselor, speaker and CTHN board member Greg Wilson. Greg has extensive experience and training in counseling teenagers, and he shared some incredibly valuable wisdom that we want to make available to everyone. 

A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated these startling facts:

  • 9% of all high school students did not go to school because of safety concerns in 2021, up from 6% in 2011
  • 14% of female high school students report being forced to have sex.
  • 18% of female high school students report having experienced sexual violence by anyone.
  • 16% of all high school students report being electronically bullied.
  • 15% of all high school students report being bullied at school.

Traumatization in teenagers can look like other forms of suffering or disorder. Many teens who have experienced trauma may seem depressed or anxious. They may take on destructive habits, and they sometimes withdraw from activities and people they would normally enjoy. If the root of a struggle is the experience of a traumatic event or series of events, a teen needs specialized care and help in order to regain stability. 

It’s important for parents, caregivers and counselors to connect with a teenager who is struggling in these ways. While it may be tempting to simply instigate more specific guidelines or restrict access to the things a teen wants, we must be sure we attune to their emotions and seek to be a calming and friendly presence in their lives. Greg offers some helpful tips for connecting with teens:

  • Attunement: “When we attune to others, we allow our own internal state to shift, to come to resonate with the inner world of another.” Dan Siegel
    • Helps the teen feel seen, heard, felt, and known.
    • Pay attention to the teen’s inner world.
  • Balance:
    • Between independence & connection
    • Between privacy & disclosure
    • Caregivers tend to want more information, but adolescents sometimes want less communication and more private space.
  • Resilience:
    • Belief in the ability to control their own outcomes + desires
    • Encourage independent thinking and acting to strengthen resilience
  • Rhythms/Routines:
    • Independence vs nurture
    • Flexibility vs limits
    • Negotiate as much as possible.
  • “Curious, not furious” in response to less-desirable or undesirable behavior
  • Manage your own feelings: Pay attention to your own window of tolerance and need for regulation.
  • Behavior management:
    • Transition from caregiver-managed to self-managed
    • Collaborative problem-solving
    • Love & logic: natural consequences

This month’s content from CTHN will be made available to all those who wish to view and download “Helping Kids and Teens Express and Regulate Big Emotions.”

We are so grateful to Greg for sharing such helpful information with us at the webinar “Caring for Traumatized Teens.” For those who would like to have access to the webinar, the recording may be purchased from our Video Resources.

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