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Episode 88: Has Your Child Been Traumatized? with Dr. Melissa Goldberg-Mintz











Brief summary of show:


Has your child been traumatized?


How can you tell? And better yet, what do you do if they have?


How do we support our kids through the traumatic events they experience?


Joining me for this conversation is Dr. Melissa Goldberg-Mintz.


Melissa Goldberg-Mintz, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Houston, Texas, and Clinical Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Goldberg Mintz is passionate about providing evidence-based care to children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced trauma. Her new book, HAS YOUR CHILD BEEN TRAUMATIZED? How to Know and What to Do to Promote Healing and Recovery is out now.




Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:20] Adverse events

  • [3:45] Most common types of trauma

  • [5:20] How to tell if it’s trauma or not

  • [7:50] What to do once you’re identified trauma

  • [11:10] Writing her book due to a traumatic event

  • [14:20] How to limit your child’s exposure to traumatic news and media

  • [15:20] Processing trauma later in life

  • [19:55] How often adults and children have unresolved trauma


Notes from Natalie:


Connect with Dr. Melissa Goldberg-Mintz


Connect with Me





View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Is my child dealing with trauma or just normal hardships in life? And what about me is that hard thing? I'm dealing with a trauma response. We're gonna answer those questions in today's podcast.

[00:00:11]

[00:00:14] Natalie: Hi everyone, it's Natalie. Thanks for being here today. Trauma, what is it? Why do we need to be aware of trauma in ourselves and what could potentially be trauma in our kids? Also, I wanna talk today about. When does a child, or when do you need professional help? Also, we're gonna talk about how can you speed up recovery from trauma.

[00:00:38] You know, there's so much that we deal with in today's world, from the pandemic to school shootings, to the things that we see sometimes on the news or just on social media that trigger. What could be trauma from your childhood? So today I wanna get into that and I have the expert that you're gonna love and we're gonna learn from today.

[00:00:57] Her name is Dr. Melissa Melissa Goldberg Mince. She's a clinical psychologist in private practice in Houston, Texas. Also a clinical assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Goldberg Minz is passionate about providing evidence based care to children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced trauma.

[00:01:17] Her new book is called, has Your Child Been Traumatized? How to Know and What to Do to Promote Healing and Recovery. I wanna encourage you to hit subscribe and share this episode with a friend. Most importantly, take the time to think about how you can better yourself and your kids in dealing with hardships, which is sometimes trauma. onto the episode now with Dr. Melissa.

[00:01:43] Dr. Melissa, thank you for joining me today. I wanna dive into this issue of trauma because so often we think of trauma and after many years in the news business, I think of trauma often as a big event. Um, the school shootings a traumatic thing that's happened, but is it always that.

[00:02:03] Melissa: No, and I'm so glad that you asked cuz that is a really common misconception that people have about trauma.

[00:02:10] Um, and actually before I get into what trauma is, there's another term we need to think about and that term is, um, adverse event. So an adverse event is something big like a school shooting, or you know, something more commonplace like a car crash or, you know, a natural disaster or being bullied at school.

[00:02:30] Um, so all these things are adverse events, uh, that can impact kids. And if there's not a natural recovery from this event, then trauma can develop in the body.

[00:02:40] Natalie: So trauma and as you put it, adverse. It's gonna happen to everyone. I mean, that's what builds our resiliency and our character and so much of that.

[00:02:50] But that response you're talking about is what I wanna get into and how, how we help our kids and ourselves

[00:02:56] Melissa: deal with that. Right? Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And I think you're so right. They're so pervasive. Um, so many studies have shown, like in our country, before kids hit their 18th birthday, most kids will experience some type of adverse event.

[00:03:11] So you're spot on with that. Yeah. So let's,

[00:03:14] Natalie: let's talk about how we deal with that.

[00:03:15] First of all, of all, let's identify what those things might be. You mentioned a few of them, but let's identify what more of those types of things.

[00:03:25] Melissa: Sure. So some of the most common are, um, sexual abuse, sexual violence in a dating relationship.

[00:03:32] Um, physical abuse, witnessing domestic violence, having a parent that has mental illness or substance abuse issues, witnessing community violence. Um, but you know, they can, I mean, , it can really be anything. So like I've seen kids who've been attacked by the family pet and had that turn into trauma, um, or being thrown into a pool at a party and not knowing how to swim.

[00:03:55] Like all these things just sound so ordinary. Um, but they absolutely have the potential to traumatize.

[00:04:01] Natalie: That's a, that's a lot of things you also mentioned, uh, bullying or, uh, you know, somebody, we hear so much now about sexting or someone saying something mean about a kid in a text and they have that fear that people are gonna see them differently than everyone else.

[00:04:18] I mean, are those adverse events and trauma type things as well?

[00:04:23] Melissa: Yeah, so it can be, is what I'll say. Um, so many of these things that, you know, have the potential to turn into trauma. Two kids could experience the literally the exact same thing, and one might go on to be traumatized and another might not be faced by it at all.

[00:04:40] So how

[00:04:40] Natalie: do we know? That's what I think is important as a parent to say, okay, this bad thing happened to my kid. Were they traumatized or are they just gonna bounce back and they're.

[00:04:50] Melissa: Right? Yes. So what I tell parents to look for in their kids, um, is a change from baseline behavior. So things like eating, sleeping, socializing, academic functioning.

[00:05:01] You know, if you've got a kid who just loves sleep, who you know, Is not an issue to get into bed at night and love sleeping in on the weekends, who now all of a sudden is trying to avoid bedtime, um, and is constantly tired. That might be a red flag. Um, you know, if you had a kid who loved eating and who was super enthusiastic about snack time in between meals, who now isn't hungry?

[00:05:24] Red flag. Um, you know, if you had a kid who was like, did not have a super big appetite to begin with, and then something scary happened and they stayed about the same, that is not as concerning as when we notice those big changes in baseline.

[00:05:37] Natalie: so I have two older girls in college and then a 13 year old boy.

[00:05:42] And so much of this age tween years is different though. I mean, he can have a day where he's starving and then a day where he's like, I'm not interested. And so those identifiers that you're giving me, we really have to know our kids baseline and watch for trends. I'm.

[00:06:00] Melissa: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. So one day is not enough to concern me.

[00:06:04] Mm-hmm. especially, you know, if you've got a kid and it's about a month after something scary happened and they're still having sleep avoidance or nightmares or something like that, um, and it's not just like some one off thing, then yes, that would be a red flag to

[00:06:18] Natalie: me. Okay. So I'm hearing you say, so I wanna give parents a checklist and we can put some of this in the show notes.

[00:06:24] Sleep issues. Mm-hmm. eating issues. Mm-hmm. , um, What else? Those are the two main ones I just heard. What are the other red flags we might watch?

[00:06:33] Melissa: Social issues. So if you had a kid that was a social butterfly who now just like wants to spend the weekends in the room by themselves, that would be a red flag.

[00:06:42] Um, and even issues in the family. So if you had a kid who liked to joke around with brothers or sisters and you know, things like that, who now is just trying to stay in their room, doesn't wanna come down to the family meal or is coming but is kind of stolen and not really participating, just picking at their food.

[00:06:56] Um, that would be a red flag. Uh, if you had a kid who loved learning and was enthusiastic about school, but now doesn't wanna go or isn't paying attention is distracted, you're getting reports from the teacher, um, that would be a red flag. Uh, so really any of these things that is just a normal part of your kid's day to day life.

[00:07:17] If you're noticing an ongoing change there, that might be a little.

[00:07:21] Natalie: So we see these things. Say you're identifying something and you're thinking, okay, time to act. What do you do? Yeah,

[00:07:30] Melissa: absolutely. And so I, I think it would. Let me, let me actually add something else too. So when I talk to parents, I tell them, look for these changes in baseline.

[00:07:40] But when I talk to professionals and do professional trainings, we're looking for something a little bit more specific. So we're looking for symptoms of post-traumatic stress. If there's a kid who's experienced an adverse event, and so these symptoms fall into five different categor. And so, um, these include having negative feelings like fear, horror, anger, shame, or guilt.

[00:08:02] Um, negative thoughts like, the world's not a safe place, or I'm a bad person. Um, intrusive re-experiencing symptoms. So, um, things like nightmares or also just having those thoughts or images pop into your head about the scary thing that happened and you don't want them. Avoidance. So trying to avoid people, places, things or situations that remind them of what happened.

[00:08:22] Um, and then these sort of like hypervigilance, hyper arousal symptoms, just feeling kind of jumpy. Um, so that's what we're looking for. So if, especially if parents notice any of these, and again, this is like a little bit clinical for parents, so that's why I go with a change in baseline. But if you're noticing a change in base, And any of the symptoms that I just described, and it's, it's been sort of sustained.

[00:08:45] Um, I would say, oh my goodness, it never hurts to enlist professional help. so one thing I emphasize in my book is that not every kid who experiences an adverse event needs a therapist. But if you're noticing these symptoms and they're going on, um, then oh my goodness. So reach out to your pediatrician, reach out to your kid's school counselor, get some names of some good people in the area, um, and approach your kid

[00:09:09] Natalie: about.

[00:09:10] Are there things, um, that we can do as parents to help them? I mean, I'm all about getting the help, especially for young people to know that getting mental health, um, help is just like a broken arm. Just like anything else. Like, and to normalize that. So later in their life, if they need that, it's not some big scary thing.

[00:09:30] But are there things before. Step that parents could do to help them if they think that they are dealing with some of these things that might just need a little intervention and not that bigger step, you know, the sprained arm instead of the broken arm type of effect.

[00:09:47] Melissa: Sure. Absolutely. So my number one intervention for parents, um, is quality time.

[00:09:53] So spending one-on-one time with your kid, um, and some parents are already doing this, but if you're not, I think it is, oh my goodness. It can really just help build connection and resilience in your kid. So what that means is finding something that you both would find enjoyable to do. Just the two of you.

[00:10:10] So no siblings, no other parent or spouse or grandparent or anything. you know, it can be something small like baking a dessert together or something big like going on, like a little day trip together. Um, but the point is it's just gotta be something that you both enjoy, that you engage in just the two of you.

[00:10:27] It's like your special. . So, um, that's really important. And then also, and this is I guess more for the younger kids, but I always recommend just more TLC after your kid's been through something scary.

[00:10:39] Natalie: Yeah. I wanna talk about your book and why you wrote the book, because, uh, this is your, your first book and it unfortunately, but fortunately helping people, it came into existence because of a very traumatic.

[00:10:53] Is that right there in

[00:10:55] Melissa: Texas? Yes. Yeah. So, um, I was actually writing the book. I started writing it. Well, I had the idea to write it. I'll take you a few steps back. Um, when I was working with kids and I noticed that kids who got better the fastest and the most dramatically were ones who had supportive, skillful parents.

[00:11:13] And so I wanted to refer all parents to some resource. Like, okay, here, here's what you can do. Like, I'm only meeting with your kid one hour once. Here's what you can do in the meantime that's just gonna help them shoot up and heal so much faster. and it wasn't out there. There were so many books, for like how to build resilience in your kids, but not what to do if something's already happened.

[00:11:33] so that was why I wrote the book. And then, you know, I started, or I had the idea in mind and then, you know, COVID 19 injured the picture and it just became all the more important to me. So I started writing it at the beginning of the pandemic. . and then, uh, you know, we had, I guess an idea about when the book would come out and then, um, the mass shooting, uh, in Uvalde happened and my publishers really rushed to get the book.

[00:11:57] Mm-hmm. out just because there was

[00:11:59] Natalie: such a need for it. I see. And it feels as if, even if kids weren't directly traumatized by that being in the news business for as many years as as I was, you know, I definitely had trauma from reporting on all of these things over the years, and I know because I've had so many parents tell me their kids watching.

[00:12:22] All of this happened and hearing about it, talking about it at school, do you have that secondary, if we can call it type of trauma from people hearing about these events and then being fearful of them? Is that a thing?

[00:12:35] Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. So, um, so for adults especially, um, if you are like, as part of your job, like you mentioned your job, for example, we also think about like first responders, EMTs, police officers.

[00:12:46] Absolutely. People who, as part of their job, they're exposed to aversive details that certainly has the potential to traumatize. Yeah. Absolutely. Um, it's a little bit different. If it's something like watching it on the tv, that can certainly be disturbing. And I always counsel parents, like, be mindful of your kids' media exposure.

[00:13:03] So don't just always have a TV on in the background, you know, with 24 hour coverage of the latest, horrific thing that just happened, because that can really be disturbing to kids. but in terms of thinking about post traumatic stress, um, the ways that kids can be traumatized, They experience something like that happening to them.

[00:13:23] They hear about it happening to a loved one, someone they're very close to. Or you know, they witness it happening to somebody else.

[00:13:31] Natalie: Now we can hardly even just turn off the tv. If they have access to the internet, then they have YouTube, YouTube shorts, they have Twitter of course, and Snapchat and whatever it is, it's gonna be in their face if they have access.

[00:13:46] To those types of devices, how can parents, aside from just taking those things away, which isn't practical because a lot of times that's how they do their homework and communicate with their friends. Mm-hmm. , how can we counsel them and help them from that type of, um, exposure.


[00:14:35] Melissa: Right. I'm so glad you brought that up.

[00:14:37] So what I encourage parents to do in response to that is to talk to their kids about their media consumption, but also what they're seeing and how they feel about it. So I see a lot of parents who don't wanna talk to their kids about it because they think like, oh my goodness. Like, no, my kid doesn't know about this.

[00:14:52] I'm not, I don't wanna bring it up. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the truth is they do know about it and they probably knew about it before you did, given how comfortable they are with their devices. Um, so really what is most helpful is talking to 'em about it. Like, okay, so did you hear about what happened in Aldi or wherever?

[00:15:10] what did you hear and how do you feel about that? So those sorts of questions can be really helpful in talking to your kids about it, you know, so that if they have burning questions or you know, if they are feeling unsafe at school, they can come to you with that rather than just kind of holding

[00:15:24] Natalie: it in.

[00:15:25] Yeah. Can we talk about, trauma later? So maybe you didn't know something that happened to your child at a young age. Um, and it could be a, a big event. We talk about, um, you know, they were at a sleepover and something, something happened with another adult, or they were scared to tell you. Now those are.

[00:15:44] Big, but I also mean smaller things too. They were bullied and they never told you. And I don't mean to minimize that cuz that's a big deal, but something that you find out about later and that your child, or even you as an adult have a trauma response. Um, can you talk about what that is and how we should, how we

[00:16:03] Melissa: should deal with that?

[00:16:05] Yes. Oh my goodness. So first of. Just thinking about the parents out there, whether you learn about it immediately or you learn like years later, something horrible happened to your child. That has a lot for a parent to go through. Mm-hmm. , I mean, even like, just thinking back to the first time your child like fell and like busted their knee, like it's hard to see your kid in pain.

[00:16:27] It's so hard. and yeah, that can be really triggering for parents, uh, seeing, seeing. Little baby cuz you know, sometimes we all, we still see our kids as our babies, suffering or struggling with something or you weren't aware of something that happened that can be so overwhelming. So I encourage parents, you know, if and when that happens, person and foremost to get your own help.

[00:16:49] So whether that's talking to your best friend about it. Or yourself about it or you know, or seeing a therapist. Um, I think that all of those things are great because what happens, especially if you find out about something much later, is you might have a very strong reaction to it. And if your child is coming to you and opening up to you about something really vulnerable for the first time, you wanna be able to be present and you don't wanna be sort of caught up in your own mind freaking out like, oh my gosh, this happened to my kid.

[00:17:14] Um, so while it's totally normal to have a very distressed reaction when your kid's telling you that, , you wanna save that for, you know, your friend, your spouse, a therapist. when your kid's talking to you, you wanna be there attuned to their emotions, supporting them. And if you don't have space for yourself, you're not gonna be able to give that to your kids.

[00:17:32] Yeah.

[00:17:33] Natalie: What about as an adult? You don't realize that your response is a trauma response. Say there was, I'm using an example, but there are so many things. Say there was domestic violence in your house and as an adult you have a trauma response in a lot of different scenarios. How do we start to identify.

[00:17:52] Those responses because I think for a lot of people, they don't realize that's what they dealt with when they were young, and that's why they're responding. So, emotionally or in a, in an adverse.

[00:18:03] Melissa: Right. Oh gosh. That can be so tough, especially because especially when things happen when we're young. Um, it can, and, and especially when they happen in our family.

[00:18:13] Mm-hmm. , it can seem normal, like you mentioned domestic violence. Yeah, yeah. Like, you know, you just think that's the way it is. Yeah. And, uh, that's all you never knew. . Uh huh. Uhhuh . And so it can be very jarring as an adult to come to terms with like, oh my goodness, this happened in my home. This is not supposed to happen in people's homes.

[00:18:32] This wasn't safe. And I have a lot of feelings about it that can be so jarring. Absolutely. And oh man. Yeah. Just sort of underscores the importance of strong connections, whether that's professional help, um, or. Friendships or other supportive relationships that an adult, is

[00:18:50] Natalie: it identifying those things as an adult saying, oh wait, that's not normal, that, that I had an alcoholic parent or some violence in my home, or those that's not normal.

[00:19:02] Maybe I should realize it's not, and get help.

[00:19:05] Melissa: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, um, you know, and I think that, uh, so we were talking about natural recovery earlier and how that frequently happens, you know, just because, uh, you know, an adult when they were growing up had a parent with a substance abuse issue in their past, that might be very disturbing and it could be very helpful to seek out help.

[00:19:25] And at the same time, I think it's just always good if there's a question like, oh my gosh, this happened. I'm feeling really weird about it. Check in with a therapist, have even just an initial session. It could be, you know, that you are fine and it could be that there's some unresolved trauma there that you need to explore.

[00:19:43] So, um, you know, I, I frequently tell that to kids and parents, like, if there's a question, it will not hurt to have, you know, an initial session with a therapist. Um,

[00:19:54] Natalie: that's such a good point. Like what does it.

[00:19:56] Melissa: Not to put

[00:19:57] Natalie: you on the spot, but , how often do you think adults and children have unresolved trauma?

[00:20:05] Ooh, that is a good question. Is it more common than we realize that we shove stuff down and we think, oh, I'm fine, and then it comes out later? How, how often do, do people do that and, and then how often do they get help or need to.

[00:20:21] Melissa: Oh, I love that question. So I have this metaphor as an answer. So this is, um, a metaphor that I first learned from trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy, but I share it with my patients all the time.

[00:20:33] So, have you ever been in a pool before? ? Yeah. Yeah. Have you ever had a beach fall in the pool? Yes. Um, have you ever tried to push the beach ball under the. . Yes. Yeah. What happened? , it comes back up. Yeah, totally. So that is how I think honestly in our culture, um, it's more than just trauma, honestly. I think that is how a lot of people try to deal with stress is we try to push it under the water.

[00:20:59] Um, we don't like people to see us struggle, whether we're sad about something and we wanna cry, or, you know, if we're stressed about homework assignment. Whatever, we try to push it under the water and seem happy. Yeah. And that takes all of our energy and effort and concentration just to keep it down for a little bit.

[00:21:12] And no matter how hard we try, it's gonna come flying up out of the water. Yeah. Um, so how frequently do I think that happens? Oh my gosh. All the time. All the time. I think pretty much everybody has done that, whether it's trauma or just, you know, the day to day stress of like something happened at work and you wanna come home and put on a happy face for.

[00:21:32] Natalie: So, mm-hmm. . Yes. I think everybody, you talk about that, you talk about that beach ball, you can sit on that beach ball all day long until you get tired or somebody else needs something. You gotta get off of it and then it's gonna come up. Right. Yeah. You can't

[00:21:45] Melissa: sit on it all day. You can't. No. Yeah. And when you're sitting on it, it makes it harder to be present and to be mindful.

[00:21:51] Sure. And engaged.

[00:21:52] Natalie: Yeah, cuz you're worried about it. Mm-hmm. . Oh, that's a really good metaphor. Thank you. I think about that . So tell people where, um, they can follow you for more information to get your book and, and what else do you have going on?

[00:22:05] Melissa: Sure. So my website is melissa goldberg mens.com. M e l i s s a g o l d b e r G m i n t z.com.

[00:22:15] Um, that's also my Instagram handle. Melissa Goldrich Menz. And what else do I have going on? Well, I am adapting this book into a parenting curriculum, so I'm just feeling very excited about that, um, and moving forward with that. also, I'm seeing patients in my private practice and I. And getting involved in some teaching and supervision

[00:22:36] Natalie: too.

[00:22:36] Super. When you say a parenting curriculum, is that something people will have access to? They can buy the curriculum or workshops or how, how can people get ahold of that when they're interested?

[00:22:46] Melissa: Yeah, so it's gonna be a while before it's ready, um, because it's gonna be studied first. Uh, just to make sure that it's effective at, you know, what we want it to do.

[00:22:54] Um, but once that's developed, then yeah, I will have more information about that on my website and where parents can learn more about it and potentially, uh, participate in a workshop or a training.

[00:23:06] Natalie: Fantastic. Well, we'll link your, um, your website and your Instagram to the show notes. We appreciate your, um, expertise and your advice so much.

[00:23:15] It's, it's one of these things as. Health reporter, education reporter, and now as a podcaster that I think we just have to be aware of. And I really hope parents, um, take it to heart for themselves if they have unresolved trauma and to just watch for in their kids. There's so much happening in our world today that we just have to know how to deal with these things and be aware of it.

[00:23:37] Melissa: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on to talk about this important topic. Well, it's really

[00:23:42] Natalie: great to talk to you. Thank you.