Panic attacks

How to help your teen cope with the trauma of bullying

Q: My 12-year-old son was the target of bullying last year. We found this out when he was badly beaten up one day after class. He’s been to counselling and we’ve enrolled him in a new school, but he still suffers from occasional panic attacks because of it. How long does it usually take kids to get over an assault like this?

A: It may take several years for your son to overcome this incident, and occasional panic attacks are quite normal after a severe assault like this. As he gets older, he may need occasional counselling to help him keep dealing with the after-effects.

You have done all the right things — taking your son to counselling to process this traumatic experience, and changing his school to give him a new start. Hopefully, the counselling was for a long enough period of time and provided him with the opportunity to process what happened to him both physically and psychologically. His self-esteem probably took a beating too, and counselling can empower him and offer ways of coping if he keeps having the panic attacks.

It’s important for him to realize that the reason for the bullying was not in himself but in the bully, and it’s going to take time for him to feel safe again. When he has panic attacks in the future, encourage him to talk to you about what is triggering his fears. It might also be helpful for you to get some counselling, so you can learn ways to support your son.

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