Bianca Tanner case highlights help for traumatized kids - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Bianca Tanner case highlights help for traumatized kids

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Its been more than a week since Bianca Tanner, a teacher who recently moved to Charlotte, disappeared.

Monday, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police released a search warrant which reveals disturbing information about the relationship between Tanner and her boyfriend, Angelo Grayson Smith, Jr.

According to the warrant, her three-year-old son told investigators that Smith "hurt mommy in the face." Police have not said Smith is a suspect in Tanner's disappearance.

The Tanner family told WBTV the boy cries himself to sleep each night, wanting his mother.

His statements to police indicate the boy has been a witness to violence.

"Just a really sad thing for a child of three to have to go through something like that," said clinical social worker Susan Brooks, who has experience with traumatized children.

Brooks says depending on the outcome, it could take a lifetime for Tanner's son to process his feelings. The same is true for any traumatized child, she says, whether the trauma comes from a terrible car accident, constant yelling in the home, or domestic violence.

"There might be pieces of the story that get remembered by an 8-year-old that he wouldn't have gotten at age three," said Brooks.

Right now, it's all about making him feel safe. "I'm hoping he has enough support around him," she said.

Mecklenburg County has Child Development Community Policing, where a team of police and counselors respond to children affected by violence. The team could be used in this case, or in a neighborhood shooting, like the one that injured a 10-year-old boy in Charlotte on Sunday.

"A child that's been exposed to that kind of violence and trauma is likely to act out in social situations. Things will scare him that don't scare other kids," she said.

Much of what triggers a traumatized child may be well known to family, but lost on the community in which he lives.

It's also the community in which he will grow up. That's why Brooks says the goal is to intervene now and prevent problems later.

She recommends caregivers give traumatized children a lot of extra TLC and allow children to talk openly.

Brooks also likes to offer young children a notebook to write down or draw out their thoughts and feelings. It's a good idea for the notebook to be easy to close and put away, or maybe the caregiver can allow the child to "tear out" bad pages representing the trauma.

Using toys or dolls to help the child express his or her feelings can also be a good outlet.

Brooks has several children's books she recommends to help little ones deal with grief or fear.

"A Terrible Thing Happened" by Margaret Holmes is one of her favorites about a little raccoon who witnesses violence and learns to cope.

"When Dinosaurs Die, A Guide to Understanding Death" by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown helps children deal with the loss of a loved one.

"Teddy's TV Troubles" by Joanne Cantor, Ph.D., helps children who may have seen something scary on television.

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