Children's Reactions to Traumatic Events (Article)

Most children need help from their parents, family, teachers, ministers or others with understanding their reactions after experiencing a disaster or traumatic event. Generally, their reactions subside in a few hours or days after they have effectively processed them. The following is a list of behaviors that if exhibited two to three weeks or longer after a traumatic event indicates a child’s need for additional support.  Compare the behavior to the way the child behaved prior to the tragedy to determine if the behavior is trauma related.

  • Withdrawal (subdued, detached)
  • Denial (avoidance, denial of facts and memories)
  • Thematic play (re-enactment, play with the traumatic theme)
  • Anxious attachment (clinging to parents and favorite objects, fearvof strangers)
  • Fears (of violence, new situations, or a reoccurrence of the trauma)
  • Regression (to behavior they found comfortable at a younger age)
  • Performance decline (school, sports, hobbies)
  • Incongruent feelings or moods (excited during quiet time)
  • Behavior changes/problems (attention seeking or acting out behaviors)
  • Psychosomatic complaints (stomach aches, headaches, bedwetting, nausea)
  • Acting out behaviors (isolation, truancy, delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual activity, running away, suicidal comments/attempts)
  • Low self-esteem and self-criticism (blame of self, condemning own reactions to the trauma, loss of control)
  • “Too old, too fast”: (development of lifestyle activities too advanced for their age)
  • Displaced anger (inappropriately onto others)

For more information on how to cope following trauma, give Best Care EAP a call. 

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Source: International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc.