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How can I help my child get over a trauma?

Know first that children are not usually as aware of or able to express their feelings as easily and clearly as adults. Prepare yourself for unusual behavior like acting out or shutting down. Don't get caught up in panic that the child has changed forever or that others will think the child's negative behavior reflects on you. Unusual behavior is normal and to be expected. Try to be patient and understanding. Post-trauma is an unusual period and with time most recover.

Dos:
  • Help them talk about their feelings.
  • Impress upon them that there are no bad or wrong feelings or emotions.
  • Acknowledge and accept their sadness and/or anger.
  • Keep a reasonable balance of discussing the situation and discussing other aspects of their lives.
  • Reassure children that they are safe.
  • Reassure children that adults are working hard to help the situation and make things right again.
  • Reassure children that, while a terrible thing happened, they will be all right in the long run.
  • Remind children that you love them and provide plenty of appropriate affection.
  • Brainstorm ways children can help. Can they donate toys or clothes? Send cards? Call someone?
  • Provide creative ways for children to express their feelings. Give them paper and pens and toys so that they can draw or act out feelings in non-verbal ways. Play with them.
  • Spend time together in typical family activity. Find new family activities.
Don't's:
  • Allow children much access to the television if the trauma is constantly televised in graphic images.
  • Attempt to avoid discussing the situation.
  • Depend on children for reassurance only adults can give.
  • Hold angry discussions about who is to blame.
  • Discuss retaliation for the event.
  • Abandon all family routine.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.