Children and trauma

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					                  PTSD information sheet 4: Children and Trauma

Children do not always have the words or ability to convey how they are feeling or reacting
to a traumatic event. They may “regress” to behaviour more like a younger child with
bedwetting, nightmares and fears of the dark or of being left alone. Adolescent children
may display their distress through aggression, truanting, delinquent acts or social / family
withdrawal. Understanding such behaviour as a response to the trauma is important.

How to help your child after a traumatic event

   Recognise that changes in your child are symptoms of distress not naughtiness. If they
    are hitting out at life, don’t take it personally
   Reassure your child that you are still there for him / her. If they have irrational fears,
    treat them seriously as, to the child, they are real. After a traumatic event, the world can
    feel suddenly very unsafe to a child and it takes time to rebuild their confidence.
   Be honest and keep any promises you make. Rebuilding a sense of trust in the world is
    an important task following trauma and your child needs consistency and stability
   Explain what facts you know about the traumatic event, as many times as your child
    needs, and don’t try to disguise or hide the truth. Children are very perceptive and if
    they don’t trust what you are saying then this will add to their sense of chaos. Use
    language and detail that is age appropriate.
   Encourage him to talk when he is ready but also allow fun and normal activities. Children
    often compartmentalize difficult emotions, dipping in and out, and need the structure of
    normal life to help contain this. For this reason, school can be helpful but ensure that
    the school pastoral team is aware of the situation. They need to understand in case of
    distress or challenging behaviour in school so that they can respond appropriately
   Cuddles, reassurance and soothing activities go a long way for young children
   Listening (proper listening) goes a long way with adolescents
   If your child is expressing their thoughts and emotions through pictures or play, don’t
    discourage this but help them to put words to it.
   Any risk-taking behaviour or suicidal talk should be taken seriously, even instances of
    younger children talking about joining a loved one in heaven. The permanence of death
    is a difficult concept for children to grasp. Seek help from your doctor, school or a
    mental health professional who is experienced with children and families in such
    instances or if things are overwhelming or you don’t feel as though things are improving

    For more information on psychological trauma, visit www.krtraumasupport.co.uk

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                                                                   © KR Trauma Support 2011

				
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Description: guidance on helping a child following a traumatic event