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Children’s corner: Helping children through trauma

Whether or not your children have been out in the street chanting “Down with the regime” and dodging rubber bullets, the events of the past month have been pretty hectic and the upheaval of order has taken its toll on all, big and small.

Some children have been through fear and worry from TV shows that have been running around the clock analyzing events and showing footage of protests and shooting. Other children have been kept up at night because of gunshots or have seen stress in relationships and their parent’s fear. Even the switch in routine as children are kept home from nursery or school with parents who are stressed and constantly discussing politics can be upsetting.

In any case, trauma, in all its shapes and forms, can have different effects on different children. The thing that remains universal is the importance of addressing children’s fears, worries and concerns and keeping lines of communication open to get them through the traumatic events.

Keep in mind that serious symptoms of trauma will require the help of a professional psychologist and phone numbers for centers with child psychology specialists are included.

Signs of trauma in children

Common symptoms of trauma or post traumatic stress in children are:

Reverting to younger stages of development: If you find your children picking up old habits–bed wetting, needing to be dressed, fed or helped with other activities they had mastered on their own or once again attaching themselves to a security blanket or toy–it is likely this is a symptom of trauma.

Unusually reoccurring physical ailments: Post-traumatic stress in children can manifest itself in ailments such as stomachaches, headaches or insomnia. Smaller children can start eating less or more for an extended period of time and simply fall out of their usual eating and sleeping habits.

Behavioral changes: Children may suddenly become withdrawn or start to deal differently with other children, becoming aggressive or confrontational. Preschoolers may suddenly start having tantrums or shutting down their feelings completely.

If you have picked up any of these changes in your children recently, you may be dealing with even a mild form of post-traumatic stress and there are a few approaches you can use to get them to open up.

Helping children deal with trauma

1. Reassurance: make sure your child knows that as far as the family is concerned, everything is OK. Do not lie, but find the thing in your lives that is OK and reassure them about that.

2. Allow immaturity: Your child is not expected to deal with the situation like an adult so stop asking them to if they are young. Allowing them to cry, be afraid and worry and listening to their fears will allow them to build the confidence to deal with trauma like adults when they are adults.

3. Choose TV content wisely: No, censorship is not a good thing, but too much violence, yelling and screaming can be very disturbing to a young child. Even an infant can be affected by listening to angry or stressed out voices and yelling, screaming and crying on TV. Try to plan activities away from the TV room or keep your particularly violent TV watching for when your children are in bed.

4. Be honest: If your child does see something on TV or catch a part of a conversation between adults, you have to be honest. Children of all ages can tell when you’re being dishonest and even if they don’t realize it consciously, it will make them more insecure and worried. Explain things simply and reassuringly–point out that an event will not change the situation at home.

5. Listen: Even if your children do not respond well to constant demands to share their feelings, there will be a time when they do open up, possibly through a story about someone else, a pretend story or by admitting their actual feelings. Be ready for this moment and when it comes, listen and answer their questions. Do not belittle what they’re feeling or brush it off.

6. Encourage creativity: Get that story out there through art, pretend play, writing or any form of creativity your child enjoys.

7. Give hugs: Your children are comforted by your touch and hugging them and holding them often will help reassure them in these times of insecurity. Even if the hugging seems a little overdone these days, indulge–the hug you are not willing to give will just leave an emptiness that will need four more hugs to fill.

If this is not enough: Sometimes symptoms like those above will worsen and slight sleep issues will turn into full-blown insomnia or chronic nightmares, eating changes will turn into anorexia and a desire to cope will turn into drug or alcohol addiction in older children. If you believe your child’s post-traumatic stress is too much for you to handle or is not improving through your guidance, it is time to seek professional help.

Maadi Psychology Center

16 Orabi St. off Port Said St.


Tel: 02-2-359-2278

Psychological Health Clinic

Road 16 number 13, Maadi.

Cairo, Egypt

Tel: 02-2-358-5509

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