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AnnieElizabeth
AnnieElizab... asks:
Q:

My 17 yr old son may have been traumatized when he was 8.  He refused to talk about it to anyone, seems to recalling now in dreams? What do we do?

During 2nd grade my blonde child was being picked on by a couple of 4th and 5th grade Mexican boys from Mexico.  Found out they had held him down and tickled him calling him "white boy", etc. I was told they had also chased him into the bathroom, but didn't go in as yardduty saw the problem. I told the principal, their teacher, and his teacher that their parents must be told and action taken immediately or the police would be called. His older brother knew that his brother was his responsibility during recess. My older son was also a target being called "white boy" names, but his friend helped out.  This could quickly get out of hand.  It seemed to have stopped-I monitored recess and lunch. 2 weeks later my son's behavior changed.  He already was active and rambunctious, now he was flat out naughty.  We went to SF and he had to go potty badly, so we stopped at a sports store and his anxiety went out of control.  He cried and went crazy refusing to go into the bathroom with just me, or his dad, or even his brother.  His teacher and I talked and there was nothing in the class triggering it.  He refused to discuss it w/ anyone even his favorite doctor.  I keep trying in a casual way, but no. Now he is 17 and last week started having horrible nightmares. He claims they have nothing to do w/ premonitions or a violent situation. I am afraid it will come back and really set off a huge problem for him. What do we do?  
In Topics: Bullying and teasing, Friendships and peer relationships, Children and stress
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
Apr 30, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

It sounds like your son and your family went though a very difficult and stressful situation when he was younger, but you and his brother were very quick to act and support him through this tough period.

It is difficult to know exactly what is triggering your son's nightmares. What is the theme of your son's dreams? Has he experienced any other changes in behavior recently? Or, have there been any other changes in his life recently? Depending upon the extent of the problems he is experiencing now (e.g., drop in grades, sad feelings, etc), counseling with a therapist specializing in adolescents may be warranted.

Adolescent boys are notorious for their discomfort with talking about tough feelings. He likely does not enjoy feeling vulnerable and it may be embarrassing to him to have "scary dreams." If you decide to pursue counseling, he will likely open up and talk about his troubles as he grows more comfortable with his therapist and discovers that the counseling office is a safe place to discuss scary things. If his dreams are, indeed, related to prior trauma, the dreams and other issues will likely improve as he explores the trauma in a safe environment.

Warm regards,

Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Child Psychologist
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