We live in a world where traumatic events are a reality and can happen to any of us unexpectedly. As adults we can find resources to cope and minimize the distress that these events may cause. It is often hard to understand how much of these situations will affect us in the long run so it is really important to address them straight away.
When it comes to children, we fail to understand that despite their size they have very big emotions just as we do but not many coping mechanisms to deal with them. They rely on us for support and guidance and in this post we will share some ideas of how to help the little ones cope and understand traumatic events.
Be Straight Forward & Compassionate
As much as possible keep the words clear and simple. Children can have a hard time conceptualizing what we are trying to present so make sure to use words they can understand and maybe do a parallel with some other event that happened to help them connect the dots and understand in their own little way.
Be emotionally available
Pay attention to how your child reacts to the information you are giving them. Offer them a hug or ask if they need some space to process it. Depending on their age they will feel things differently and therefore cope differently. Sometimes leaving them alone for a bit to allow them to regulate their emotions is the best way. If they need reassurance and a hug make sure to be there for them fully.
Keep An Eye On Their Behaviour
Children are very sensitive to change and that can sometimes show physically. They may start having difficulties sleeping, eating or socializing. These behaviours can be momentary but do seek professional help if you believe it is affecting them on a deeper level or affecting their health. They may want to isolate themselves and may show developmental difficulties depending on the trauma. They may struggle to show how they feel or what they want, may have issues communicating and even become aggressive and/or impulsive.
With a bit of research you can find some tools that may help them during these difficult times. For example, the book Bracky Builds A New Den is the tale of a happy dinosaur whose life is turned upside down when a family member suffers a serious injury.
This book is aimed at 5 to 8 year old children to help them cope when a parent has suffered from a serious injury – something which often leaves children with PTSD.
“Bracky Builds A New Den” is also a great educational tool for children who may have friends in this circumstance and will explain a little better what their friend may be going through.
The book has been developed following a period of research using tailored, professional advice from therapists and first-hand accounts from families and children who have experienced serious injury.
Children may get confused about what they are going through. They may ask questions often and they might put the events of the trauma in the wrong order and need constant reassurance. They may go through a period of feeling clingy or distant.
Also bare in mind that you will also be coping with the same trauma so make sure to take some time for yourself to regulate your own emotions so you are in a good place to support them when they need.
Witnessing something traumatic being so small and not really understanding the proportions of that event can initiate strong emotions and physical reactions that can persist long after the event. They may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of these feelings and emotions that can also manifest physically and that can trigger a variety of responses.
Be open to listen and to be there for your children emotionally when they need you. Do not hesitate to look for help from a friend, family member or a professional if you feel like the situation is becoming too much. And always remember that you do not need to go through these difficult times alone. If you do not have an established support system this may be an opportunity to create one. Know that despite the current circumstances, things do get better with time and patience.