It’s very common for children and adolescents to be more anxious in the first month after a traumatic event. They often try to avoid situations, thoughts or persons that remind them of the traumatic event.
- It’s common for separation anxiety to appear or intensify after a traumatic event.
- Many children don’t like to be separated from their parents in the first few weeks.
- Explain to your child that they will feel soon like before the event again.
- Minimize separations and keep separations as brief as possible in the beginning.
- Try to be close to your child, especially if your child is hospitalized.
- For brief separations, let your child know where you are going and when you will be back.
- Say goodbye briefly, and don’t prolong the situation. Make sure your child is engaged in an enjoyable activity before you leave.
- You can increase your child’s feelings of safety by giving them something that they like or something that reminds them of you (for example, a scarf).
- In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, many children and even adolescents do not want to sleep alone in their bed or their room.
- Explain to your child that their anxieties will decrease very soon.
- If your child asks to sleep in your bedroom this may be helpful for a limited time (e.g. 3 nights), preferably on a separate mattress.
- Sometimes it’s helpful for the child to sleep with a sibling in the same room. Only allow it when the sibling isn’t disturbed and agrees to this.
- Help your child to feel comfortable in their room. Your child`s feeling of safety can be increased by giving them something that they like, or something that reminds them of you (e.g. a pillow, a scarf, etc.). You can also put up a dream catcher in your child’s room.
- Establish a bedtime ritual (read a bedtime story, review the day, etc.).
- Help your child to think about something nice before going to bed.
- Try to ensure that your child has no excitement one hour before bedtime (video games, TV, etc.).
- If your child finds it difficult to fall asleep, let them listen to an audio book, podcast or music. Most children then fall asleep by themselves.
- It’s very common that children and adolescents have more worries and concerns after experiencing a traumatic event. Take your time to find out what kind of worries your child has.
- Sometimes children and even adolescents 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 emoticons/ smileys for different feelings on paper.
- Assure your child that you and other adults protect them and explain to them that they are safe now.
- Don’t urge your child to speak about the traumatic event but let them know that they can speak about their worries and anxieties with you at any time.
- Your child’s feeling of safety can be increased by giving him or her something that they like, or something that reminds them of you (e.g. a pillow, a scarf, etc.).
Avoiding speaking about the traumatic event
- A lot of children and adolescents have difficulties telling what upsets them.
- Don’t force your child to speak, but let them know, that they can speak about their worries and concerns with you at any time.
- Don’t wait until your child mentions the traumatic event by themselves. Instead, offer your child opportunities to speak about the traumatic event.
- Talk openly with your child about the traumatic event and encourage them to express their feelings.
- Avoid discussing your own fears and worries with your child.
- Provide appropriate drawing and play material for your child; many children will use this to express their feelings about the traumatic event.
Fear of things, people or places which remind your child of the traumatic event
- Fear of trauma-related reminders is very common after a traumatic event.
- Often children and adolescents try to avoid trauma-related reminders such as specific places or people. The longer a child/ adolescent avoids such things, the longer this behavior will last.
- Explain to your child that it`s normal to be scared by bad memories and that these memories and worries will go away over the next weeks.
- Help your child to understand that remembering something doesn’t mean experiencing it again. Memories are always about something in the past.
- Provide safety and let your child know that you will protect them.
- Try to help your child face fearful situations with courage. Praise your child for successfully facing scary situations, and reward brave behavior.