Privatized Housing and Childhood Traumatic Stress

By: Molly Stubbs, MS, LPC Nationally Certified TF-CBT TherapistGuest Blogger and MHA'N Health & Wellness Advisory Board Member

When privatized housing fails to provide a safe home, it is sometimes necessary for a family to temporarily relocate. Due to the complexities of military life, this can mean that the service member and their partner are forced to separate from their children to attend to their job duties and ensure the privatized housing organization is complying with all safety remediations.

While children are inherently resilient, this does not mean they are immune to experiencing stress related to a major life transition such as a relocation. Children are more susceptible to have challenges related to transitions, big or small, because their view of the world is changing in a big way. Moving from their home, their safe space, is disruptive to their everyday life. Figuring out how to navigate their daily life without their parents’ physical presence may leave them feeling ‘out of sorts’ and off balance. Often, behaviors or symptoms arise that may be either external (something you can observe) or internal (happening inside of themselves, sometimes outside of the view of others).

Common signs your child may be struggling:

External Behaviors

Increased crying episodes, increased yelling, arguing, noncompliance with requests/demands, increased demands from child, clinginess, separation anxiety, impulsivity, increase verbalization of worries

Internal Behaviors

Increased sadness, withdrawing or isolating, overwhelming or big emotions

How to approach a home relocation with your child

Open and age-appropriate honest communication with children is key during life transitions. Specifically, during a home relocation, children may benefit from the following:

  • preparation (only if possible from a safety perspective)
  • a transitional object (for comfort)
  • a consistent routine or schedule, if possible–some children benefit from a visual schedule if they are unable to read to see what to expect
  • communication with family or friends via phone, Facetime, Skype
  • a safe space in their new home
  • opportunity for them to talk to someone about what is happening

If your child(ren) is/are struggling with their transition, having behaviors that are interfering with day-to-day life, and it has been more than a few weeks, it may be appropriate to seek a referral for counseling to assist your child(ren) with adjusting to their new normal. You may also click on the link below for resources and more information on childhood trauma:

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