After a severe trauma or being prolonged or repeatedly exposed to traumatic events, it’s common that children cry more, are sadder, and withdraw from social activities. Some children also show regressive behavior (e.g. bed wetting, thumb sucking, and loss of language).
- Explain to your child that it’s normal to be sad after traumatic events.
- Comfort your child and tell them that they are safe.
- Sometimes children find it difficult to say what’s upsetting them. Describe feelings like anger, sadness or fear, and ask your child which of these feelings they have. You can, for example, draw emojis for different feelings on paper.
- Don’t urge your child to speak about the what happened to them, but let them know that they can speak about their worries and anxieties with you at any time.
- Sympathize with your child if they prefer to be at home or to be alone.
- Nevertheless, encourage your child to meet friends and to go outdoors.
- Make sure and tell your child that they can play with friends in a safe place, where adults protect them.
Regression in developmental skills
- Regressive behavior is common after traumatic events. Children often suck their thumbs, begin wetting the bed again, lose language or like to sit more often on their parents’ laps again.
- Behave as neutrally as possible and don’t get angry with your child.
- Change clothes and bed linen without comment if your child wets the bed. Comfort your child and explain that this problem will go away soon.
- Don’t allow anybody to criticize or shame your child, for instance with comments such as “You’re acting like a baby!”.
- Explain to your child and close persons that temporary regressions in development are normal after traumatic events and that this goes away soon.
- Praise your child for every effort they make to overcome regressive behavior.