According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than two thirds of children in the United States reported at least one traumatic event by age 16. Traumatic events can include psychological, physical or sexual abuse, school violence, sudden or violent loss of a loved one, or neglect.
Children who experience trauma may show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is characterized by:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Isolation from friends and family
- Refusing to go to school
- Anger or violent outbursts
- Trouble sleeping
If these warning signs are not recognized or untreated, they can lead to more serious mental health conditions as a child gets older.
“Traumatic events can shatter a child’s sense of safety and security,” said Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s psychiatrist Chad Lennon, MD. “Children may become fearful of others, aggressive or have suicidal thoughts or behaviors.”
It is important for parents and caregivers to talk regularly to their children so that they can more easily detect unusual behaviors in their child. Early identification and mental health treatment can help children with trauma cope with their feelings and be more successful in the classroom and at home.
Dr. Lennon offers the following tips to help parents and caregivers support children after a traumatic event:
- Reassure your child that they can talk to you about anything at anytime
- Keep your child’s schedule as similar as possible to what it was before the traumatic event occurred
- Make sure your child is getting enough rest
- Help your child physically relax. For young children, this could mean preparing warm baths and encouraging story time.