Getting help for your child

Following a trauma, experts recommend a ‘wait-and-see’ approach for up to four weeks. During this time keep an eye on your child to see how they are doing. Initial reactions often go away on their own in time. But they can take up to six months to fully resolve. The key thing is that your child is showing signs of improvement.

If your child is still struggling and shows no signs of improving four weeks after the trauma, speak to your GP. If their distress is overwhelming it may be a good idea to seek help sooner.

Here you will learn:

  • When to seek extra help for your child
  • What kind of help to look for
  • How to get the best from your GP
  • What trauma-focused CBT is and how it can help your child

If your child seems no better after four weeks, or if they are getting worse, your first port of call is your GP. The health watchdog, NICE—the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence—recommends that children with post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—receive a special type of talking therapy called trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT). Another trauma-focused treatment also recommended by NICE is known as EMDR.


As the name suggests, this is a type of therapy—specifically designed to tackle the after-effects of trauma. Cognitive behavioural therapy, usually called CBT, is based on the idea that our thoughts and beliefs affect our feelings, which, in turn, affect our behaviour. TF-CBT involves working with a trained healthcare professional, usually over eight or more sessions, including:

  • Talking through memories of the event or, for younger children, using drawings and/or play focused on the trauma
  • Helping your child to change any negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves, the world or other people that have developed after the trauma
  • Working with your child to overcome their fears

Keep in mind that TF-CBT can be hard at times for your child, but the therapist will know how to help them to manage their distress.

NICE also recommends a type of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) for children with PTSD. EMDR will also involve your child being supported to process their traumatic experience.

It can help to write a summary of your child’s problems to take to your appointment. It can be hard to know where to start with this. To help, in the resources section you can find a PTSD symptom scale that you might like to fill in to show your GP. This scale is called the Child PTSD Symptom Scale and is suitable for children aged 8+ years old. 

Here are some tips for talking to your GP:

  • Be clear when describing your child’s problems—include how exactly they are affected, how long they have been experiencing problems, and what treatment you would like them to have
  • Ask your GP how you can access trauma-specific support for your child
  • Ask what’s on offer in your area—services vary across the country
  • Be prepared to be consistent and firm if you aren’t happy with what your GP offers

For more advice, see our video below.

Yes. You may prefer not to wait for TF-CBT to become available on the NHS but to seek support privately if you can afford it or have insurance that will cover payment.

Ask your GP for a list of therapists who specialise in CBT or EMDR, and work with children.

PTSD Symptom Scale
Helping your child with loss, change, and trauma
Helping your child with fears and worries
Why is it useful to talk about trauma?
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Young Minds provides free resources for parents and young people, on a variety of mental health difficulties
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Anna Freud Centre have resources for young people that provide more information about help and support
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PTSD UK provides more information about adult PTSD
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After the Injury is a US-based website that provides more information about supporting your child after they have been injured
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Older children & teens tip sheet
Young children tip sheet
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