It is important to communicate openly with children following trauma. Let them know that it’s normal to feel scared or upset. Your child may also look to you for cues on how they should respond to traumatic events so let him or her see you dealing with symptoms of trauma in a positive way.
Some common reactions to trauma and ways to help your child deal with them:
Regression. Many children may try to return to an earlier stage when they felt safer and more cared for. Younger children may wet the bed or want a bottle; older children may fear being alone. It's important to be patient and comforting if your child responds this way.
Thinking the event is their fault. Children younger than seven or eight tend to think that if something goes wrong, it must be their fault—no matter how irrational this may sound to an adult. Be sure your child understands that he did not cause the event.
Acting out Behaviors. Children do not express feelings like adults. Their form of expression when something is wrong is through acting out behaviors at home, in school, or both. Children experience less emotional regulation after a traumatic event so they can display more irritability, anger, tears, anxiety, and less tolerance to normal stressors in daily life. Children with who have been sexually abused can act out sexually as well, but not always. Children will have difficulty concentrating in school as they are thinking about the memories of the trauma. Some children appear to "not be listening" and easily lose touch to what is going on around them. Parents can provide a safe place in the home and tools to express feelings (drawing, bop bag, exercise). Parents need to stay calm, nurturing, and be safe for children as self regulation is most important for children who are not able to regulate; children can "borrow your regulated self" during difficult moments. Seek additional help by a Play Therapist who specializes in trauma play.
Sleep disorders. Some children have difficulty falling to sleep; others wake frequently or have troubling dreams. If you can, give your child a stuffed animal, soft blanket, or flashlight to take to bed. Try spending extra time together in the evening, doing quiet activities or reading. Be patient. It may take a while before your child can sleep through the night again.
Feeling helpless. Being active in a campaign to prevent an event like this one from happening again, writing thank you letters to people who have helped, and caring for others can bring a sense of hope and control to everyone in the family.
*A psychological evaluation is always recommended to correctly diagnose the trauma and treatment planning.
The Healing Center for Children, Adults & Families, LLC 310 Maxwell Rd Suite 100 Alpharetta, GA 30009 email@example.com Office: 470.227.0169 Fax: 678.580.3582