Your child has experienced something traumatic—not just the sexual abuse itself, but dealing with the aftermath of it. They are more than likely experiencing a lot of emotions, some of them even contradictory. They may be grateful the abuse has stopped but miss the person who abused them. They might feel shame that it occurred, even though it wasn’t their fault. Taking care of your child after something like this isn’t a one-time thing. They will need your help, support, and love long-term.

One way to help them toward healing is equipping them with the ability to cope with their emotions in a healthy manner. Not surprisingly, children who feel like they can manage their emotions are more likely to feel confident and content. This is important for their safety and well-being, as well as reducing the likelihood of revictimization.

Your child or teen may exhibit impulsive behaviors driven by strong emotions. They may be so overwhelmed by their feelings that they are acting out in the hopes of getting rid of the strong feelings or getting the attention of someone who can help them. As a society we’re beginning to address this behavior in relationship to self-harm, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts, but we’ve left out another critical element: Impulsive behavior may be one cause of concerning sexual behaviors from one child to another, behavior that could cause long-term impact and trauma for both the one acting and the one being acted upon. This is even true for children who have experienced sexual abuse themselves.

Coping with emotions requires patience and practice, for you and your kid. You may find it helpful to use our emotion wheel to help them put their feelings into words. This may also be something that your child could work on with a therapist or with another medical professional. Visit our Coping with Emotions Resources page for additional suggestions and activities.

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