After a traumatic event like severe weather, a terrorist attack, an act of domestic violence, a car accident, a death in the family, and the list goes on… everyone is affected, even our children. One could say, especially our children. Traumatic events threaten everyone differently, but children are particularly vulnerable to the emotional and psychological effects of trauma.
How do we help our children after they’ve been exposed to trauma?
Here are a few important action-steps that we can take to help our children (kids and adolescents) through a difficult time like trauma:
- Remind and reassure them that you are going to do everything you can to protect them.
- Encourage them to talk with you about how they feel. Often, when children are faced with trauma, they begin to act younger (AKA regression)—hoping to revert to a happier time—and parents need to understand this is a coping response. It’s easy to get upset and tell a child to “act your age” but parents should instead listen and understand what they are going through. In time, the child will resume normal behavior.
- Let your child know that he/she can trust you with everything and anything.
- When your child asks you questions, make sure that you answer them honestly. At the same time, reassure your child that you are always there.
- While you should honestly answer your child’s questions, being honest doesn’t mean that you have to inform them of everything, especially of things that they’re not emotionally prepared to know at their age.
- Think positive. It is easy to ask the “what if?” questions. Don’t let the imaginary worst-case affect you or your child. When asked “what if?” just remind your child of the positive things happening around them.
- Avoid re-broadcasts and ongoing news of traumatic events. To children with vivid imaginations, it is easy to have nightmares or be terrified by the things seen on television.
- Finally, as much as possible, stick to the normalcy of life. One of the most beautiful things about children is that they can move on from things quickly. Kids are resilient! Make sure that you keep life normal and continue on through the hardships.
If you feel that you or your child require some additional help with feelings of post-traumatic stress, or to process a trauma that’s occurred, the licensed counselors at Thriveworks Boston Counseling can help.
Contact us anytime at 617-395-5806.