HINTS FOR HELPING CHILDREN AFTER A PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA
-Children may get confused about what happened after the trauma.
Therefore, explain the situation to your children when he/she’s ready and desires. When explaining, avoid from all details that might scare your children. Correct any wrong information your children might have.
Answer each and every question with patience and remind him/her that she/he’s safe as frequently as the child needs to hear it.
Inform them about what’s coming next. If any changes should be done related to their school or place they live in, inform the child beforehand.
- Children might think that they’re wrong and might change what’s happened after a trauma. These thoughts may cause anxiety and they may hesitate to talk about their worries in front of others.
Give them opportunity to talk about their worries. Tell them that what’s happened is not his/her fault and comfort him/her.
Most children and adults may think like “What did I do differently to deserve this?” or “I should have been able to do something” after a disaster like this. That doesn’t mean that they’re wrong.
“Remember… The fireman told us that nobody could save Ali and this wasn’t your fault.”
-Children might get scared that it will happen again and might react to those who remind them the incident.
Observe your child and help him/her to discover different reminders (people, places, scents, voices, time of the day etc.) and to understand the differences between the reminders before and after the incident.
“Flood’s come up to my mind just because it’s raining but there is no flood right and we’re safe.”
If the incident caused the trauma is a natural disaster or something can be seen on T.V., prevent your child seeing them as much as possible because it may trigger his/her fears. If you see him/her watching, sit with them. Ask your child to explain what he/she’s seen on the news. Correct any misunderstanding.
Encourage positive problem solving skills in games and paintings.
“You’re painting pictures that show what’s happened. Do you know most kids do this as well?”
“It’s a great idea that you paint a picture making your school safer.”
-Children may show extraordinarily aggressive and relentless behaviours after a trauma.
Talk them about their feelings and encourage them to exercise and do fun activities to regulate their emotions.
“I know that you don’t want to slam that door. Feeling this mad should be hard.”
“How about a walk? Sometimes moving our body may help us feeling stronger.”
Telling your child about your feelings and talking to him/her about their feeling may help. When you’re talking about your feelings, try to keep your calm as much as possible not to aggravate him/her anxiety.
“I got so scared when the accident happened. I was sorry about the fact that my leg was broken and I had to walk with a support for a while. I know it’s sad for you to see me hurt. But I’ve been feeling a lot better since they casted it and I know that I’ll get better fast.”
Your child might have somatic symptoms meaning causeless such as stomachaches, headaches, muscle pain, and nausea.
First, it is important to know that if these symptoms have any medical reason. If there’s no medical reason, tell your child that these are normal reactions and they will go away. Dwelling on these symptoms may aggregate them. Hence, do not dwell on them. If your child is telling that she/he has a stomachache and if you know this is caused by the trauma they’ve gone through, tell him/her:
“How about sitting here till your stomachache gets better? Let me know when you’re feeling better. Then we can play.”
Make sure that your child is fed well and he/she drinks a lot of water and sleep well and get enough exercise.
-Your child may have hard time dealing with his/her emotions after the bad incident he/she’s gone through.
Provide a safe place where he/she can explain his/her fears, anger, sadness. Let them cry and be upset, do not expect him/her to be brave.
“When terrible things happen, people tend to feel strong feelings such as being mad at everyone or being sad. Do you want to sit here with the blanket (or a stuffed toy, doll) till you feel better?”
-They may have difficulties in sleeping. They may have nightmares, be afraid to sleep alone and may wish to sleep with their parents.
Inform them about bad dreams. Tell them that bad dreams are normal and they will go away. Do not ask of the child to detail their bad dreams.
“It was a horrible dream. You can dream of something nice. I’ll rub your back until you fall asleep.”
Temporary sleep arrangements may be done. You may work out a plan with your child to go back to his/her normal sleeping habits.
“You may sleep in our bedroom for a couple of days. After that, we’ll spend more time with you on your bed till you sleep. If you get scared again, we can talk about it.”
Your child may have worries about his/her and others’ security.
Help them sharing their worries and give them realistic information. You may create a “worry box” for your child to put his/her worries into. Make time for looking at the writings on the box, for problem solving and for answering the worries.
Encourage positive activities on behalf of others but do not land them with any responsibility. Help them determining on meaningful and age-appropriate projects.
Resource; National Child Traumatic Stress Network