WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP A CHILD?
KEEP FAMILY ROUTINES · Children benefit from the family routine of meals, activities, and bedtimes being kept as close to normal as possible. This allows a child to feel more security and control. As much as possible, children should stay with people with whom they feel most familiar.
INDULGE SPECIAL NEEDS · Allow a traumatized child to be more dependent on you for a period of time following the trauma. This may involve more holding or hugs than usual, not sleeping alone, having the light left on, returning to a favorite teddy bear or blanket or permission to be clingy rather than socially outgoing.
TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED · Children express their feelings in different ways. Some children will be numb, withdrawn, and unable to talk about the event. Others will experience intense spurts of sadness or anger and recognition of what has happened, and other periods of denial when they act as if the event has not occurred. Others will express themselves non-verbally in drawings or play that maybe confusing to parents.
Children are often confused about the facts and their feelings: talking can help clarify what they understand and what they need to hear. If you’re unsure how to help your children please seek professional help.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS FOR TALKING WITH THE CHILD IN YOUR HOME, CLASSROOM OR NEIGHBORHOOD:
· Notice when your child has questions and wants to talk.
· Listen to your child’s feelings and accept them, even if they are different from yours.
· Give honest, simple, brief answers to your child’s questions.
· Make sure that your child understands your answers and the meaning that you intend.
· Use words or phrases that won’t confuse your child or make the world more frightening (e.g. using “sleep” for death can cause a child to be afraid of going to bed; associating the concept of punishment with a disastrous event may cause a child to feel personally threatened).
· Create opportunities for your children to talk with each other about what happened and how they are feeling.
· Be especially loving and supportive; more than anyone else, your child needs you at this time.
COMMON REACTIONS OF ADULTS
PHYSICAL · Stomach problems, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, rapid pulse, numbness, startle reactions, trouble breathing, chest/head pains.
PSYCHOLOGICAL · Helplessness, powerlessness, hopelessness, sense of injustice, guilt, vulnerable, feeling not yourself, anger, feelings of revenge, depression, sadness, nervousness, frustrations, embarrassment.
RELATIONAL · Withdrawing/clinging to others, being demanding of others, changes in sexual activity, breakdown in trust, suspiciousness, fear of others.
COGNITIVE · Too many thoughts at once, distortion of time, flashbacks, thoughts of suicide/homicide, euphoria or guilt about being alive, confusion.
BEHAVIORAL · Moodiness, changes in how you usually act, silence/talkativeness, crying, calmness, hysteria, dangerous/destructive behaviors.
SPIRITUAL · Loss of/clinging to faith, spiritual doubts, withdrawal from spiritual community, despair, questioning of beliefs or meaning of life. For any physical complaints, it is always important that you check in with your physician and not assume that they are related to what you are experiencing. While all of the reactions above are normal, you may find yourself leaning toward behaviors that are harmful to yourself or others; drug or alcohol abuse, overeating, lashing out. For any behaviors such as these it is beneficial to see a professional who can guide you through a healthy grief process.