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Courtesy of Kid Tips Magazine

The first step in helping your child with a traumatic situation is to recognize what a traumatic event might be. A traumatic situation is one that causes your child/family a great deal of pain such as the death of a family member, divorce, illness, family move, death of a pet, a friend moving away, a change in school, parents loss of a job, natural disaster. Please keep in mind all children and adults handle difficult situations in different ways. This article will describe various types of responses you might find yourself as a parent experience along with changes you might see in your child.

During a time of stress it is important that you as the parent/caregiver take care of yourself and create a support system to help you cope with your time of trauma. In order for you to help your child you need to be available for your child, able to hear your child's needs and know that your child will look to you as the parent for cues and advice as to how to respond and handle the given event. The following are some tips as to ways to help you and your child cope.

Parent Tips

The following are normal reactions that you as an adult might experience:

  • Easily irritated/become angry
  • Cries a lot
  • Wants to withdraw/be alone
  • Problems sleeping/dreams of the event
  • Eating problems
  • Experiences physical complaints, stomach aches and headaches
  • Feels anxious, depressed
  • Fearful of a recurrence of the event
  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Difficulty concentrating

In order to help you deal with these reactions, it is important that you:

  • Get enough rest
  • Have someone to talk to, share your feeling and fears
  • Make time for physical activity such as walking, exercise
  • Eat well
  • Allow yourself to take time off from work if necessary
  • Recognize that you are experiencing the above feelings and that they are normal

If you are able to recognize your feelings and have the tools to cope with them, then the following steps in helping your child during this time of crisis will come easier.

Tips On Helping Your Child

  • Begin by closing your eyes, taking a deep breath. This will help you relax and gain control of your emotions.
  • When you talk with your child it is of utmost importance that you are as calm as possible and have control of yourself and your emotions.
  • Your child will look to you for strength and how to react to the situation. If you should lose control your child might become worried about you making the situation even more difficult for them to handle.
  • Let your child know you love them and care about them and want to know how they are feeling.
  • Listen to your child and his/her feelings. Validate what they are saying. If you are experiencing some of the same feelings share that. It is important to let your child know their feelings are normal and they are not the only ones having them. When sharing be sure to share and not take the lead.
  • Ask open-ended questions that will give your child permission to express his/her feelings. Explore their various fears and concerns. Repeat feelings and facts that seem to keep coming up or are key points of worries.
  • Pay attention to your child's questions. Don't avoid difficult questions. Try to answer as many of the questions as possible. If you don't have all the answers, it's okay to say "I don't know" or "I don't have an answer for that question but I will try and get one for you."
  • Let your child know that you are taking his/her concerns seriously.
  • If your child has a hard time talking about their feelings let them know you are there when they are ready to share. Give them some time on their own. If they don't bring the situation up within a day or two introduce the subject again.
  • If your child is verbal then find time each day to talk to them about how they are doing emotionally. Explore new feelings, fears or anxieties.
  • If your child changes frequency or the way he/she talks, plays or expresses attitudes, this may indicate fears or anxieties they are unable to express.
  • If your child likes to draw let him/her make a picture that tells you how he/she is feeling or a picture that describes his/her worries or fears.
  • Your child might express his/her upsets through their behavior. You might find a major change in your child such as becoming aggressive, withdrawing, having physical complaints that coincide with the trauma. You might find a change in the frequency or way he/she talks, plays or expresses attitudes that may indicate fears or anxieties that they are unable to express.

Continue with part 2


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