PTSD in Children: Why Touch Therapy Works

June 27, 2023

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with adults, particularly those who have been through war or other types of severe trauma. However, PTSD can also occur in children and is often a result of various traumatic experiences. As a therapist, understanding PTSD in children and how to support them is crucial. In this article, we will explore PTSD in children, its causes, and how gentle, nurturing touch therapy and communication respecting their autonomy can serve as a supportive therapeutic approach.

Understanding PTSD in Children

PTSD in children, like in adults, is considered to be mental health disorder that occurs after a child has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. The child may relive the trauma through nightmares or flashbacks, avoid anything related to the traumatic event, and exhibit mood changes or increased arousal symptoms such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating.

Children with PTSD can have a reduced sense of safety and security, making the world seem dangerous. They may struggle with trust, making it difficult to form healthy relationships.

Why Do Children Develop PTSD?

There can be several reasons why a child develops PTSD. Here are five common causes:

Physical or Sexual Abuse:

Children who have suffered from physical or sexual abuse are at a high risk of developing PTSD.

Witnessing Violence:

Whether it’s domestic violence at home or violence in their community, witnessing these events can lead to PTSD in children.

Natural Disasters:

Experiencing a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake can be traumatic for children and may lead to PTSD.

Accidents or Medical Trauma:

A severe accident or a frightening medical procedure can be traumatic enough to cause PTSD in children.

Loss of a Loved One:

The sudden or violent loss of a loved one can also be a trigger for PTSD in children.

Gentle Nurturing Touch: A Therapeutic Approach

When administered with informed consent and respect for the child’s autonomy, touch therapy can be a powerful tool in supporting children with PTSD. Here’s why:

Safety and Trust:

Touch therapy provides a safe space for children to learn to trust again. The therapist’s gentle, predictable touch can help to restore a sense of safety and security that the child may have lost.

Physical Comfort:

Touch therapy can help alleviate physical stress and tension, which is common in children with PTSD.

Emotional Regulation:

Through touch therapy, children can learn to regulate their emotions better, helping them to manage symptoms such as anxiety and irritability.


By asking for the child’s consent before each session and respecting their decision to stop at any time, touch therapy can help children to regain a sense of control over their bodies.

Children can indeed be affected by PTSD due to various traumatic experiences. As Certified Pediatric Massage Therapists (CPMT®) and parents, understanding the potential causes and recognizing the symptoms of PTSD in children is vital. Equally important is knowing how to provide therapeutic support. Gentle, nurturing touch therapy, administered with respect for the child’s autonomy and informed consent, can be a powerful tool in the healing process. It offers a method for physical comfort and a pathway to emotional regulation, safety, trust, and, ultimately, empowerment.