Kids may not show or talk openly about what has happened or what they have witnessed, but they may still be carrying an enormous amount of stress. Children show their stress in different ways than adults. They may seem depressed, anxious, or irritable. Depending on a child’s age and stage of development, symptoms of stress may appear as physical or medical conditions, trouble in school, or changes in eating, sleeping, and other activities. Some children return to previously outgrown behaviors.
How can I support my child at home?
Most of your child’s healing and recovery will happen with family and friends, in school and the community. There are several key ways you can support your child at home, and help them to manage this stressful time:
- Listen and accept; tell your child that you believe them. Let them know that what happened was not their fault, and that he/she is brave to talk about it. Let them talk about it, or not, at their own pace.
- Establish a daily routine, and stick with it the best you can. This stability is very helpful to kids as they struggle with strong feelings, fears, and worries.
- Don’t forget to play and have fun! This is a child’s natural way of relieving stress and returning to normal.
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can affect kids too. You may notice some or all of the following symptoms – they may be indicators that your child is having persistent difficulty in managing stress.
- Jumpiness, agitation, or being “on guard”
- Excessive or repetitive behaviors
- Worry, including separation anxiety
- Avoidance of certain people, places or activities
- Self-injury (e.g. cutting) or talking of harming self or others
- Depression, isolation, lack of interest, hopelessness
- Anger, rages, irritability
- Trouble focusing or concentrating, blackouts
- Emotional numbness
- Risky or reckless behavior
- Drug or alcohol abuse