When a child has witnessed or actually experienced an accident or other traumatic event, it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The severity of this condition may depend on the nature of the circumstances. Whatever the cause, there are ways that parents can help a child with PTSD.
Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
It’s important to recognize the signs of PTSD in children. Many are common at any age. But of course, they will manifest differently in children.
The following are just some of the signs that could indicate a child is suffering from PTSD:
- terrifying thoughts;
- survivor’s guilt;
- anxiety and depression;
- avoidance of people or activities;
- refusal to talk about it;
- sleep disturbances;
- difficulties with concentrating or paying attention; and
- anger, irritability, and outbursts.
Signs may develop within the first few months of the accident or event, but sometimes it takes longer. They can last for years, which is why getting help as soon as possible is important. But parents can also make a difference.
What You Can Do When a Child Is Suffering from PTSD: Seek Treatment
Make sure your child receives professional help. Don’t assume the feelings will pass or that it’s just a stage. Individual therapy with a mental health professional like a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, or bereavement specialist is one option. You might also consider a support group or group therapy. Talk to your child’s physician or a mental health professional about treatment and support options.
When a Child Is Suffering from PTSD: Offer Support
Your support as a parent can go a long way in overcoming PTSD. This requires being understanding and patient. Let your child know that what he/she is feeling is normal. Don’t punish or shame a child who regresses (such as wetting the bed, sucking the thumb or insisting you keep the lights on in the bedroom at night).
Make sure your child feels secure. Part of this may include assurances that he/she wasn’t at fault for what happened. But at the same time, don’t completely take control of the child’s life. Allow him/her room to make his/her own decisions, depending on the child’s age.
Maintaining a routine is also important. This could be more difficult in certain circumstances, such as when the other parent has died. But try to keep things as normal as possible.
When a Child Is Suffering from PTSD: Keep Communication Lines Open
Never force a child to talk about the event or accident. But be alert to when the child is ready and then let the conversation flow.
Give the child other ways to express feelings such as through:
- painting; or
- acting out with toys or puppets.
If your child is asking a lot of questions, try to answer them honestly but protect him/her from details that he/she doesn’t need to know. Use judgment in what you share.
Talk to an Attorney about Legal Options after an Accident
If the careless or reckless actions of another person caused the accident or trauma, you may pursue legal action against that party. You may pursue compensation to cover financial losses like those required for therapy sessions, as well as noneconomic damages. It’s important to talk with an attorney about the possibility of pursuing legal action. Call D.J. Banovitz at 303-300-5060 or use our online contact form to set up a consultation.