Whether your child has been through a traumatic incident, witnessed one, or heard about it, they may be affected by an array of difficult emotions. Trauma could be school bullying, changes in lifestyle as a result of COVID-19, witnessing the death of a loved one, abuse, or watching a news clip on something that happened in another part of the world.
Children respond in different ways, including:
- Withdrawal – loss of confidence, not wanting to engage in enjoyable activities, school refusal, not wanting to hang out with friends and family
- Relive the incident – nightmares, hypervigilance to situations around them
- Physical difficulties – complaints of headaches, stomachaches more so than before
- Behavioural difficulties – anger outbursts, defiance, tantrums
- Have suicidal or self-harm thoughts
For some children, some of these difficulties may present shortly after a traumatic event. Other children may experience a delayed reaction, which can surface weeks or months after the incident has occurred.
Supporting your child who has experienced trauma
- Remember that there is not right or wrong way of processing and healing from trauma
- Encourage your child to share their feelings. Let them know that whatever they’re feeling is normal and okay. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with someone, even if it is not you.
- Support them with feeling safe. For a younger child, hugs and reassurances may help them feel safe and secure, and as a way to remind them that you are here for them. Teenagers may tough it out, but your presence and encouragements are still important in helping them feel safe.
- Be consistent and predictable. Maintain routines to provide stability. Try to keep to a schedule to help your child feel like their world is stable. Maintain regular times for meals, homework, and family time.
- Give your child an opportunity to ask questions about what happened or what they may see in the media.
- In the same way, don’t pressure them to talking. Talking about a traumatic incident can be immensely difficult! Drawing, painting, journaling, or dance may make it easier for children to express themselves.
- Allow time for play, fun, and laughter.
When to seek help?
If these difficulties last for more than a few weeks, or if you notice they are getting worse, it may be time to ask for help from a psychologist. Psychological therapy may help your child develop feelings of safety, process what happened and develop a positive view of themselves, give your child a sense of control, teach your child how to be okay with difficult feelings.
If you or your child would like to learn more about trauma or would like some support with a difficult situation you may have experienced, please contact us today.