After experiencing a severe trauma or being prolonged or repeatedly exposed to traumatic events, it’s very common and normal that children are more restless or nervous and display more tantrums or defiant behavior. Re-experiencing what happened to them and repeatedly trying to avoid things that trigger this re-experiencing upsets children. Children can also have difficulty sleeping and poor concentration, or they may easily be startled.
- Explain to your child that it’s normal to be feel more nervous after traumatic events and that they will feel calmer again.
- By patient with your child and try to understand what your child feels: Are they frightened, angry or bored?
- Try to identify triggers for the hyperactivity and nervousness (such as tiredness, over-stimulation, boredom, or particular situations that remind them of the traumatic events).
- Calm your child by doing quiet activities with them (e.g. drawing, coloring of mandalas, playing, etc.).
- Be patient with your child and try to understand what your child feels: Are they frightened, angry or bored?
- Help your child find words for their wishes, frustrations and worries and help your child express anger in other ways.
- Explain to your child that you understand that they lose their temper quickly, but still be consistent with them.
- Behave consistently and give your child clear and specific rules and guidance. Let your child know if something is not OK and always stop aggressive behavior immediately. Don’t let the situation escalate – react early.
- Use simple, quiet, and reasonable instructions.
- Agree with your child on what they can do when they get angry (such as biting a pillow, using a punching bag, etc.). Give clear rules for this as well.
Getting startled easily
- Give your child a feeling of security and that you and other adults will protect them.
- Give your child the opportunity to speak about their fears and worries and take these seriously. Agree with your child on a specific sign by which they can let you know that they are frightened and need your support.
- Be as calm as possible.
- Help your child feel safe and secure by giving a lot of affection and closeness and by playing and speaking with them more than usual.
- Be careful not to worsen or prolong your child’s anxieties. Instead, encourage your child to face fearful situations and praise your child when they succeed in doing it. Encourage and praise courageous behavior.
- Explain to your child that you understand that they lose their temper quickly and help them handle their disappointment.
- Explain to your child that it’s normal that they are more impatient and that this will change again over time. Encourage your child to have patience. Praise your child if they do something well.
- Be a model of quiet and patient behavior.
- Let your child know how long they have to wait.
- Explain to your child what you have to take care of until you have time for them.
- Give your child a concrete activity to do while waiting for something.
- In case of general impatience, restlessness, and nervousness, simple relaxation exercises may help (for instance, to take deep breaths and count to five).