Unfortunately, some children are exposed to violence and traumatic events. As a result, they can develop mental health problems that require professional attention. It is important that you recognize which symptoms are considered to be normal and which require professional treatment so that you can take action.
What Is Considered Normal Responses to Trauma?
What reaction your child exhibits to the trauma he or she witnessed can sometimes depend on age. For instance, a child under the age of five might react to the trauma by bedwetting, whimpering, being scared to be out of the presence of a caregiver, and crying. By contrast, a slightly older child might choose isolation, try to avoid going to school, have outbursts of anger, and have trouble with focusing in school.
Reactions to trauma are not limited to younger children. If your teenager witnessed a traumatic event, he or she can also show anger, start using drugs, lose interest in extracurricular activities, and have trouble sleeping.
Although most of these symptoms are cause for concern, you should especially seek out treatment for your child if he or she is having thoughts of suicide, showing signs of major depression, or is not getting better with time.
What Can You Do?
It is important to allow your child time to address what happened. For some children, this involves crying, while others might want to talk or draw about what happened. It also is possible that your child will not want to talk at all. You need to allow your child the space and time he or she needs to deal with the emotions he or she is feeling.
You might have to make changes to your everyday routine to help your child recover from the experience. For instance, if your child is afraid to sleep with the lights off, buy a night light. A traumatic experience can leave some children feeling as if they have no control over their lives. If your child has expressed this, give him or her more control over decisions that affect him or her. For instance, let your child choose activities for the family for a while.
The most important thing you can do to help your child recover from a traumatic experience is to seek help. Seeking professional mental health treatment for your child is not a sign that you are not a good parent. It is a sign that you are willing to go the distance and ensure your child's mental and emotional well-being.
Recovery can take time. However, it is possible for your child to move forward with his or her life.
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