A cross-sectional study was conducted by JPMA (Journal of Pakistan Medical Association) in four government schools. The study says that among 487 participants (ages between 11-18 years) 29% female and 21%, male students had PTSD symptoms.
Kids are far more sensitive than adults. They see and feel things differently. Similarly, stressful events may affect how they think and feel. Most often, kids recover on their own with the passage of the time. However, kids who experience severe traumas or repeated and ongoing stressful incidents around them, get affected badly.
Though behavioral changes occur in kids with age and when they observe some unusual traumatic events. However, parents should consider such changes seriously, specifically in case if the symptoms and changes last more than a month. Moreover, seeking experts’ advice is also mandatory in such cases.
Kids can encounter PTSD when they went through painful events in life, like;
- losing someone they love
- severe accident
- a natural or man-made disaster
- physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- violence and crimes
- serious illness of self or some close family member/friend
- extreme neglect
How do I know my child is suffering from PTSD?
No one can understand a child better than his/her parents. Being a parent, you can observe the changes in your child. Keenly observe him/her if s/he has just gone through a traumatic incident. Besides, doctors, teachers, family members, and close friends of the child can also observe the changes.
Or if you don’t really know that your child had encountered some painful event, just checking his routine would be enough.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of PTSD in kids, that will help you with the warning signs. Still, we recommend taking experts’ opinions before concluding anything about your child.
- flashbacks of the incident
- feeling fear or anxiety when recalling the event
- reliving the trauma
- trouble falling asleep
- lack of concentration in activities
- problem understanding instructions, focusing or paying attention
- lack of positive emotions
- being unable to recall important parts of the incident
- avoiding things that recall traumatic memories (people, places, objects, dates)
- feeling guilty and shameful about the event
- drawing either the event or some sudden and drastic changes in drawing patterns
- separation anxiety or being suddenly introverted
These signs may occur on different time spans depending on the severity of the event and the sensitivity of the child. Moreover, the kid’s age, frequency of the event, relationship, his/her coping skills, his/her perception about the danger define the severity and occurrence of the symptoms.
Sometimes they occur after months or years (when some sort of the same incident happens again or something recalls the memories of the event) or sometimes after a few days of the traumatic event.
Being a parent, you don’t need to look for all the above signs and symptoms in your child. As we always say, every child is an individual and can behave differently.
How can I help my child in coping up with PTSD?
We can’t deny the fact that childhood trauma may have intense, lasting, and serious effects. But with proper support and care from adults (parents, teachers, doctors) kids can recover. Consider the following tips or discuss with your child’s therapist if you are not sure what to do.
- Identifying trauma triggers
- be available (physically and emotionally)
- have patience
- don’t punish
- hear them out
- provide a positive environment
- make them feel safe
- develop a routine
- don’t react, respond instead
- help them to learn to enjoy
- don’t be judgmental
- assure them that what happened was not their fault
- have healthy discussions
- don’t force or impose anything
- allow age-appropriate choices
- encourage self-assurance
- try to keep their schedule similar to before the trauma
- offer love, support, and understanding
- praise them for being strong
Many kids recover on their own after a period of adjustment, but if your kid’s symptoms last more than a month or become worsen, consult a mental health provider. (A psychiatrist, psychotherapist, behavior therapist, or psychologist.)
Two types of treatments are available for the kids affected by PTSD; therapeutic and medicinal. Some practitioners recommend either of the two and some recommend both.
A therapist will work with your kid and your family to bring your child to normal living. Therapies are known to treat PTSD in kids quite well. Such as cognitive therapy, play therapy, and EMDR therapy(eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy).
In a worsening condition of fear, anxiety, and depression, a practitioner may also prescribe some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicines. These medicines help to elevate fear and anxiety.
Helping your child cope with PTSD may be challenging, stressful, and may require a lot of energy. Make sure to take good care of yourself along with your kid and family. Time heals everything. Love, care, and support will help your family to move ahead.