Sensitive Subjects

People often use the word “trauma” to refer to a traumatic event. Trauma is a scary, dangerous, or violent event that can happen to anyone. Not all dangerous or scary events are traumatic events, however.

A traumatic event is a scary, dangerous, or violent event. An event can be traumatic when we face or witness an immediate threat to ourselves or to a loved one, often followed by serious injury or harm. We feel terror, helplessness, or horror at what we are experiencing and at our inability to stop it or protect ourselves or others from it.

Often people feel bad after a trauma. Even though we try hard to keep children safe, dangerous events still happen. This danger can come from outside of the family (such as a natural disaster, car accident, school shooting, or community violence) or from within the family, such as a serious injury, domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one.

When a young person has had one or more traumatic events, and has reactions that continue and affect his or her daily life long after the events have ended, we call it traumatic stress. They may react by becoming very upset for long periods, depressed, or anxious. They may show changes in the way they behave, or in their eating and sleeping habits; have aches and pains; have difficulties at school, problems relating to others, or not want to be with others or take part in activities. They may use drugs or alcohol, behave in risky ways, or engage in unhealthy sexual activity.

How can I help?

Use the links below to help your child cope with trauma:

Parenting After Trauma

If your foster teen or someone else is worried about his/her mental health, it is important to encourage him/her to speak up and ask for help. Unexplained changes in behavior and/or mood may be the early warning signs of a mental health condition and should never be ignored. The onset of psychotic illnesses is not common overall but the teen and young adult years are periods of higher relative risk.

Common mental health symptoms

  • A sudden or persistent drop in school performance.
  • Persistently aggressive behavior.
  • Threats to self or others.
  • Substantial mood swings.
  • Hallucinations, paranoia or delusions
  • Acting very withdrawn, sad or overly anxious.
  • Extreme difficulty interacting with friends and/or siblings.
  • Extreme changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Increased or persistent use of alcohol or drugs.

What should you do if you suspect your child has a mental health condition?

Talk with your child’s doctor.
Early identification and intervention are important. If you are concerned about your child's mental health, start by talking with their primary healthcare provider. If the PCP suspects that your child is experiencing early signs of a mental health condition, the PCP may either talk with you about treatment options or may recommend a referral to a mental health professional.

Work with their school.
Meet with teachers or other school officials to request an evaluation for special education services. Work with the school to identify effective interventions that promote positive behaviors, social skill development, academic achievement, and prevent challenging behaviors in school.

Get a referral to a mental health specialist.
If your child is referred to a mental health professional, ask your PCP to help by calling the office with you to help schedule an appointment.

Talking about sexuality may be uncomfortable at first, but it wilI get easier in time. Being open to discussing sexuality can be challenging. It's common for parents and kids to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when talking about sex.

Everyday there are opportunites to talk about sexuality. TV shows and commercials that discuss sex offer great opportunities to talk to your child about sex and sexuality. When these teachable moments occur, they can make the conversation easier and more natural.

It is also important to listen to foster youth when they have something to say about sex/sexuality. You don't always have to agree with what you hear, but it is important to pay attention to what they say. It shows them that you are interested in and respect what they have to say.

Below are suggestions on how to answer difficult questions:

Questions and answers courtesy of Planned Parenthood

Q How do you know when puberty is over?

A It can be hard to tell. Some people don't experience all the changes that happen during puberty until they're 20 years old. But it can end earlier than that. Do you have other questions about puberty?

Q How big will my breasts get?

A It depends. Breasts come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. And when they're developing, they change all the time. Breasts can range from small to enormous. Whether yours are lemons or grapefruits, they're normal.

Q Is it true that a girl can't get pregnant the first time she has sex?

A No, that's not true. If you're having vaginal intercourse and not using condoms or other birth control, you can get pregnant — whether it's the first time or the one hundred and first time. That's why most people use birth control the first time they have sex.

Q What's the best birth control method?

A Different methods of birth control are best for different people. That's why it's important to learn about each method of birth control so you can choose the one that best for you.

Q Should people have sex if they're in love?

A Not necessarily. Sex is just one part of a whole relationship. It's just one way to express love. Choosing to be in a sexual relationship is a big decision. There's a lot to think about. And two people can love each other very much without having sex. Do you think you're in love?

Q Does it hurt to lose your virginity?

A Some women experience pain the first time they have vaginal intercourse. That's because they may have a hymen in the opening of their vaginas that gets stretched open during first intercourse and may cause pain and bleeding. Guys do not have hymens, so this is not an issue for them. Do you have other questions about virginity?

LGBT and Questioning young people face many challenges socially, and some of them may be dangerous. The challenges they face can make it difficult for them to feel secure as they make their way in the world.

The best way to help LGBTQ young people feel safe and secure as they find their way in the world is to understand and support the world they live in. Here are a few suggestions to help them do that:

Information courtesy of Planned Parenthood

  • Ask how we might help them.
  • Never "out" them without their permission. Let kids decide when, where, and to whom they want to come out.
  • Offer advice and help them think through their coming out decisions so that they can avoid taking unnecessary risks.
  • Make sure they know how to practice safer sex and how to use birth control if they ever have sex with people of the opposite sex.
  • Learn about the world they live in and support our kids' involvement with the LGBTQ community online and in real life.
  • We can listen to their stories. Spend time with them. Find out who their friends and bullies are.
  • Support our kids' right to have loving relationships. It's a good idea to get to know our children's partners and friends.
  • Help them believe that life will be good to them in the future.
  • Support our children's life goals, even if they are different from our own, let our children find their way without pressure from us.
  • Take pride in our kids' ability to have a loving relationship.
  • Help them set healthy boundaries
  • Keep saying, "I love you."

How do I know if my teen or young adult has a substance use disorder?

If an adolescent starts behaving differently for no apparent reason—such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty.

If I want help for my teen or young adult, where do I start?

Asking for help from professionals is the first important step.

You can start by bringing your child to a doctor who can screen for signs of drug use and other related health conditions. You might want to ask your child’s doctor in advance if he or she is comfortable screening for drug use with standard assessment tools and making a referral to an appropriate treatment provider. If not, ask for a referral to another doctor skilled in these issues.

Other signs include:

  • A change in peer group
  • Carelessness with grooming
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Trouble in school or with the law
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Missing classes or skipping school
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

No, I do not know how

No, but I want to learn

No, but I am learning

Yes, I have started doing it

Yes, I do it when I need to

Managing Medications

1. Do you fill a prescription if you need to?
2. Do you know what to do if you are having a bad reaction to your medications?
3. Do you take medications correctly and on your own?
4. Do you reorder medications before they run out?

Appointment Keeping

5. Do you call the doctor's office to make an appointment?
6. Do you follow-up on any referral for tests, check-ups, or labs?
7. Do you arrange your ride to medical appointments?
8. Do you call the doctor about unusual changes in your health? (ex: allergic reactions)
9. Do you apply for health insurance if you lose your current coverage?
10. Do you know what your health insurance covers?
11. Do you manage your money and budget household expenses? (ex: checking/debit card)

Tracking Health Issues

12. Do you fill out the medical history form, including a list of your allergies?
13. Do you keep a calendar or list of medical or other appointments?
14. Do you make a list of questions before the doctor’s visit?
15. Do you get financial help with school or work?

Talking with Providers

16. Do you tell the doctor or nurse what you are feeling?
17. Do you answer questions that are asked by the doctor, nurse, or clinical staff?

Managing Daily Activities

18. Do you help plan or prepare meals/food?
19. Do you keep home/room clean or clean-up after meals?
20. Do you use neighborhood stores and services? (ex: grocery stores & pharmacies)

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