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We understand that every child’s situation is unique. Contact our team with your questions today.

Healing from Complex Trauma Begins with Compassion

a boy healing from complex trauma receives a hug from an adult

Accepting that there is something not working properly in the way you and your teen relate to one another is the first of many steps toward healing. There’s no handbook for being a parent (wouldn’t it be great if there were?), but that doesn’t mean you can’t change the way you take care of your teen, your whole family, and yourself. Healing from complex trauma and other difficult situations starts with compassion and openness.

When parents come to us at Family First Adolescent Services and describe their difficulty understanding their child’s struggles, they often feel like they are responsible and are failing their child. We help them navigate their child’s mental and emotional health for a clearer understanding. Our adolescent complex PTSD treatment program helps teens and families heal personally and together. Call 888.904.5947 to enroll today.

Noticing Issues in Your Teen and Yourself

Seeing your teen struggling at school, lashing out at home, isolating, and pulling back from activities they used to love, and you may not know how to communicate with him or to cope with what’s happening.

You’re likely putting incredible pressure on yourself or thinking it’s your fault. You might beat yourself up, be wary of the wider world, and second-guess almost every instinct and impulse. Children notice this, whether you know it or not, and often interpret your self-criticism (and the behaviors that stem from it) as their fault.

Understanding Complex Trauma

Today’s parents have watched the world change drastically from the world they knew as children. With growing fear and uncertainty about environmental and economic stability, adults are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety. Unrelenting pressure to perform at high levels in your work, your social circle, or within your family can cause you to ignore your own needs and lead to burnout or depression.

Your child’s way of perceiving and understanding the world began in the womb while he shared a nervous system with his mother. As he grows and develops, he learns coping mechanisms from the relationships with those close to him, which may lead to:

  • Suppressing his own needs – Watching those close to him never take personal time or express emotions leads him to believe he should do the same.
  • Burning out – Never putting himself first leads to exhaustion and the feeling of having nothing left to give.
  • Becoming depressed – Feelings of numbness and hopelessness may overwhelm him as a result of constantly putting himself last.
  • Lashing out – Growing resentment for always being last can lead to angry outbursts and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse.

These chronic patterns of self-rejection are the consequences of complex trauma, an often subtle yet pervasive form of trauma that shapes the foundation of identity. Thankfully, this pattern can be broken, and healing from complex trauma is possible.

How to Treat Complex Trauma by Building Agency

Healing complex trauma requires compassionate, comprehensive care. Many methods, including the NeuroAffective Relational Model®, help teens relate to themselves through their own agency—supporting them to redefine their sense of identity, make their own decisions, and practice self-care.

By helping teenagers explore what they want and supporting them in understanding themselves better, it can make a big difference. When they see how they handle things and how it affects them, they can learn a lot. This helps them feel more in control and know where they want to go.

When teenagers pay attention to what’s happening right now, they can figure out what they truly want instead of just doing what they think others want. They can also understand how they feel instead of feeling like they should feel a certain way. It’s like taking off the pressure they put on themselves instead of feeling pressure from everyone else. By doing this, teenagers can see how their own thoughts and actions have kept them from connecting with themselves and with others.

Treating Complex Trauma in Adolescents at Family First

When Family First therapists talk in groups with our clients, a teen might share how much he loves his parents and how warm, kind, and wonderful they are. And it’s not hyperbole—his parents are generous, they keep a beautiful home, they’re involved in his activities, and supportive of his endeavors—but perhaps one of the parents struggles with acute anxiety or depression.

Opening Up

That teen, talking about his wonderful parents, has likely been struggling so much that he reached the point of needing help. As a young child, he likely had feelings that if he approached his parents with his confusing thoughts and feelings, he would trigger their anxiety or depression. This pattern of behavior may have made it appear to his parents as though nothing was wrong and that he had everything he needed.

As a teenager, he avoids expressing his feelings because he doesn’t believe that his parents will be able to provide him with the relief he wants, and he fears that he’ll overwhelm them. Children learn to dial down the expression of their needs in favor of protecting their relationship with their parents, which can strain relationships.

Showing Compassion

Did those stellar parents intentionally ignore their teen’s feelings? Of course not, but recognizing those patterns and offering compassion starts the healing process. Healing doesn’t just involve teens struggling with complex trauma but the entire family.

  • Teens – Through individual and group therapy, teens learn how to express their needs and emotions in healthy ways. By exploring their emotions with our counselors, they can better understand and manage their complex trauma.
  • Family members –Weekly family sessions, as well as an intensive, on-campus family program, help parents address some of the most prescient issues affecting their family. Where appropriate, we’ll refer parents to local resources for additional therapeutic support, like community-based support groups or therapists.

Our intention for families is not to blame and shame but rather to invite parents as well as their teenagers to be present and open-minded to the consequences of unaddressed past trauma. Our approach is compassionate, respectful, and noninvasive. The work we do together isn’t to dig into your past trauma or force you to dredge up old, painful memories. Instead, we help parents focus on the ways they learned to adapt and how those adaptations show up in everyday life.

Call Family First Adolescent Services for Help Now

We want parents to see that the ways they adapted were necessary for their own survival and that they did the best they could with what was available to them in that environment.

We help parents and teens embrace the subtle beauty in how they grew up. Taking care of others or being empathetic are beautiful qualities in a person. When someone is unable to connect with their own emotions or provide themselves with necessary self-care, it can lead to issues.

By helping parents and teens heal unaddressed complex trauma, we can help their relationship truly transform. When they let go of guilt and shame, they can find a way out of the cycle of chaos they’ve been rooted in and create a path forward with compassion and understanding.

Call 888.904.5947 or connect with us online now to put your family first and start healing from complex trauma.