Traumatic events are extremely disrupting and hard to cope with so it’s important to learn how to help your child cope after a traumatic event.
For children, they can have an even greater impact because they are still mentally and physically developing.
That said, trauma is not abnormal and can happen in many different ways. In particular, car accidents are one of the most common sources of childhood trauma.
Car accidents happen every day and many times they are out of your control.
Preparing your family for the worst-case scenario is important because serious accidents do happen and understanding the risks gives your family an idea of what to expect.
Despite your best efforts to prepare, any child is rarely ready to experience trauma.
Because of this, they’ll need your guidance as they process what they’ve been through.
To help you assist your child, we’ll explain a few important steps to take following trauma below.
You should begin by maintaining your child’s existing routines.
Children are incredibly dependent on routines.
This is because routines provide stability and a sense of normalcy.
Traumatic events are abnormal and can shake a child to their core.
They may question what is normal after experiencing something traumatic.
The best way to restore normalcy is by ensuring that your child sticks to their routine.
This includes routines for sleeping, eating, and other activities they regularly participate in.
As important as a routine is, don’t force it too early.
Your child may take a few days or weeks before they are mentally ready to return to their routine.
Once you’re able to restore routine, it becomes much easier for your child to cope as they get into the groove of daily life.
When your child is ready, you should open up a dialogue with them about what’s happened.
Traumatic events are extremely confusing and your little one has no idea how to process it.
They’re sure to have questions, concerns, and frustrations about what they’ve been through.
As a parent and adult, you have more life experience and a different perspective than your child.
Sharing this with them can help them better understand their experience and that how they feel is completely natural.
You will certainly need to talk to your child at some point, but do not make them talk before they feel comfortable.
They will surely need time to mentally accept their trauma and feel safe enough to open up about it.
When that moment does come, listen to your child, and address all of their concerns.
Once your child can understand their situation better, it greatly helps their ability to recover and cope.
One of the most impactful tactics is to provide support as your little one heals.
Trauma is one of the hardest things your child will ever face.
There’s no right way to handle it and nobody reacts in the same way.
Your child may have some drastic responses and reactions to their trauma, but this is entirely normal. During this time, you must show that you are on their side.
It can be easy to punish bad behavior without looking deeper.
You must understand why your child is acting out if you want to help them.
Considering this, accept your child how they are and don’t judge or punish their actions.
Give them your love and support and they’ll see that the world is not against them.
Supporting your child is critical to their ability to cope and your relationship going forward.
Remember this and show your love in any way they’ll accept it.
Finally, you must make a point to re-establish security in the areas the traumatic event affected.
For something like a car accident, your child may be nervous to ride in the car again.
This is challenging because they may need to ride in the car for transportation to school, daycare, or other events.
With any fear your child has, they must learn to face them.
Running away from situations that make your child uncomfortable makes them less capable and resistant to stressful situations in the future.
Even if your child has experienced something traumatic, they can still participate in a related activity with some time and effort.
Gradually reintroduce them to the activity and be there to guide them along the way.
Take it slowly and your child will adjust.
Security is crucial for comfort and safety.
Trauma eliminates security and restoring it is paramount to helping your child cope with what they’ve been through.
If your child has been through something horrific, they are likely traumatized.
This can be heartbreaking to witness as a parent, but you are not helpless to make your child feel better.
In particular, a few steps are key to helping your child cope with trauma.
This includes maintaining their routines, opening a dialogue about their experience, providing support, and reestablishing security in areas they were traumatized in.
Every child handles trauma differently and their support network can make a big difference.
Keep this in mind and do your best to guide your little one through their recovery.