Family trauma

Catherine Mogil, PsyD Family Trauma Therapist, shares advice for parents on how to help their kids understand a traumatic family event and heal from it
Parenting Tips | Helping Kids Understand A Traumatic Event
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Family trauma

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One of the things to remember about a family trauma is that everybody experienced it differently. Even though you were maybe all right there, in the same car, or in the same place, everyone has their different perspective on it. And parents can really help the family recover by trying to understand the perspective of each child in the family and each adult in the family. So helping the two parents or a parent and a grandmother, for example, really hear what it was like for each of them. Perhaps also taking the time to sit down and just hear what it was like for a child. For example, one child may have been less injured and a different child may have been more injured. Or there may be guilt. There is a lot of misattributions that kids make about traumatic events. And so when parents can focus on just understanding what the event was like for their kids and understanding that each of them are going to have a different perspective, they can then figure out which attributions are misattributions they want to reshape. So they can really help the child to maybe understand that it wasn’t their fault. Or address the fact that in a case of a car accident, that it was actually maybe the fault of the driver in the other car instead of it being the fault of the child. Maybe the child was acting up right at the time of impact, or something like that. A lot of parents have been told that kids are resilient and they just get past things. And that’s true by and large. But parents sometimes are told, “Well, if your child is not bringing it up, that means they’re probably fine.” And that may or may not be true. I always recommend to parents that they open the door to talk about this stuff. And they can do that through modeling their own experience of the trauma. They can say, “Wow, that care accident was really scary,” or, “When I saw you in the hospital, I was really scared.” And then that can open the door for the child to say, “Yes, I was too.” So letting the child have this space and being there and being ready to give the child that attention when they are finally ready to talk.

Catherine Mogil, PsyD Family Trauma Therapist, shares advice for parents on how to help their kids understand a traumatic family event and heal from it

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Catherine Mogil, PsyD

Family Trauma Therapist

Dr. Catherine E. Mogil is an assistant clinical professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and serves as the director of training and intervention development for the Nathanson Family Resilience Center and as the co-director of the Child and Family Trauma Service.

Dr. Mogil is also a consultant for the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple Family Retreats, the Uniformed Services University, and a special military project with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Her recent research focuses on the effects of multiple deployments on military families, including the role of parental functioning on childhood mental health. Working with children of all developmental stages, Dr. Mogil has been involved in several intervention development and translational research projects that examine the efficacy of parent-assisted interventions for infants and toddlers in foster care, school-aged children with developmental disabilities, and adolescents with autism spectrum and other disorders.

Dr. Mogil is certified in parent-child interaction therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and leadership education in neurodevelopmental disabilities. She received her doctorate from Pepperdine University and completed her clinical internship at UCLA. Dr. Mogil also completed a postdoctoral fellowship specializing in the prevention and treatment of child and family traumatic stress at the University of Southern California and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

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