Life throws up many experiences. Some experiences and events are happy; others sad and then again some are shocking and traumatic. Trauma is an unexpected, sudden event that leaves one in shock. Children too are bound to experience trauma in some form or the other. A child’s age, personality, family support and prior exposure to trauma determine how a child ends up coping with trauma.
When faced with a child who has experienced trauma, remember that no two children react to a traumatic event in the same way. In this situation, it’s imperative that you help your child with a suitable first response. But in order to do this, you must be able to spot the signs of trauma.
Signs of trauma
- Irritation, sadness, anger, guilt or shame
- A state of confusion or worry
- Self blame
- Shunning other people
- Flouting rules
Some children may also experience stomach aches or headaches. Others might be unable to do simple tasks like going to the toilet or dressing up on their own. If you see that your child has fever, is sweating profusely, has a rapid pulse, is dizzy or is unable to respond to you, then call an ambulance, or rush to the emergency room of the nearest hospital -it is imperative that you seek medical care at once.
Your first response helps your child to cope after a traumatic event:
- Check for signs of shock, injury or illness
- Do not hesitate to seek medical attention if required.
- Warmth, comforting hugs and words help. Keep saying, “It’s going to be alright” or the equivalent.
- Don’t be alarmed if your child refuses to eat or drink immediately after a traumatic event. A smaller appetite or lack of it in this situation is normal.
- A safe and secure place for your child to read, play or draw under supervision is the next thing to look for.
- If possible try to find a space that is away from reminders of the event.
- Listen to your child. Do not stifle him if he wants to speak. Be a good listener.
- Give your child his favorite toy or blanket. Just anything familiar and comforting to hold on to.
- Encourage your child to spend time with other people like family and friends. This will help restore normalcy and help him realize others are around for support.
- Spending time talking about the event in a calm manner will help your child cope better. If you can talk about a stressful event calmly some semblance of normalcy will be restored for your child.
- Allow your child to care for other people such as siblings and friends. Keep him away from media as much as you can.
- If required let your child talk to a counselor.
Finally, remember each child is different. Do not rush your child when he is coping with trauma. A lot of patience, warmth and understanding on your part will help your child. Your first response is critical and most likely the determining factor of how your child will cope with trauma in future. Most children are understandably very upset when faced with trauma but the good news is that most of them recover and are able to get on with their lives.