Helping Children Deal with Trauma

The recent horrific shootings in Aurora, Colorado is yet another event that children have been exposed to over the past many years that threatens their sense of safety and security.  While some children are able to learn of such events and seemingly “move on” with no noticeable impact, others are momentarily “shaken”, respond with genuine feelings of fear and their sense of safety and trust in the world are temporarily altered.

There are other children, however, who are deeply shaken and even traumatized by such events. Such children may portray numerous anxiety reactions including renewed fears of separation from their parents and caregivers, fears of going to public places and/or even obsessive thoughts about the event or reports of it seen on TV.  Others may regress in previously gained developmental achievements and, for example, may want to sleep with parents when prior to the event they had been comfortable and secure in their own beds.

Some “Tips for Parents” for helping their child deal with traumatic events:

1.  Listen—allow your child to talk about their reactions, fears, and resulting fantasies without rushing to reassure them- thereby cutting them off from having a chance to express their fears (which also allows you to fully understand the extent of their fears). 2. Understand that children deal with trauma different than adults.  Children tend to “touch it”, have brief periods of dealing with it and then return to do the same thing hours or even days or weeks later (adults tend to talk in depth for extended periods of time). 3. Provide reassurance, love and support and maintain the child’s regular schedule and routine. 4. Do Not develop an avoidant life style which will only serve to increase the child’s fears of the world. 5. Allow for partial and temporary regressions-with love, ongoing structure and routine developmental achievements will be regained. 6. If your child portrays ongoing nightmares, obsessional thoughts and/or unresolvable anxiety, seek the help of a child expert.