Supporting young people after a trauma (8-12 year olds)

Emergencies and disasters are extremely stressful, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed. The mental health and wellbeing of the whole community, including young people, children, and even infants, can be affected. The following information provides a starting point for you to help children and young people in your life navigate the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the recent storm. 

Emergencies and disasters are extremely stressful, and it is normal to feel overwhelmed. The mental health and wellbeing of the whole community, including young people, children, and even infants, can be affected. The following information provides a starting point for you to help children and young people in your life navigate the mental health and wellbeing impacts of the recent storm. 

 

Some key reminders

  • Children’s reactions following a traumatic event are significantly influenced by their age and developmental stage.
  • Most children will recover from a traumatic event over time, with some experiencing positive change for the better. However, some children will continue to experience difficulties.
  • Some children will seem fine at first, then be distressed at a later point.
  • Children may experience distress even if they did not experience the event personally.
  • Parents and carers will also be dealing with their own grief and loss and may need increased support to provide stability and routine for their children.

Typical reactions from children aged 8 - 12 years old*

Please note, these reactions are common however your child will have their own personal reactions or responses to trauma and stress

  • mood or personality changes
  • acting out by hurting others or themselves
  • behaviours usually seen in much younger or older children
  • changes in normal eating patterns
  • increased tension and irritability
  • new fears or old fears coming back
  • increased sensitivity to small noises or movements
  • lack of eye contact or a ‘spaced out’ look
  • increased clinginess or fear of being alone
  • anxiety or worried about lots of things
  • diminished attention and being easily distracted
  • efforts to avoid reminders of the event
  • reluctance to go to school or see others
  • self-directed blame for what happened
  • fear of the dark, nightmares or trouble falling/staying asleep
  • bodily aches and pains
  • changes or delays in speech, memory or learning. 

How can I help/support?

These reactions can vary in intensity and how long they go on for. It is important to keep an eye on how you and your child are doing over time. It is also important to remember to look after yourself. You and the other adults around them are the key to your child’s wellbeing. Speak to your GP or seek help if any of the above symptoms are interfering with your or your child’s ability to live your day-to-day lives or if they seem to get worse instead of better over time.

  • Listen to what your children have to say, answer their questions truthfully. Opportunities to discuss the events in an appropriate way offer your child opportunities to work through their emotions and worries.
  • Help children understand what happened. Be honest with them and use proper language when speaking about events. If your child blames themselves for what happened, you can reassure them that they didn’t cause the event, and that nobody blames them for it.
  • Try to keep your normal routine (reading before bed, eating dinner together, watching TV together)
  • Be open about your thoughts and feelings, children will be aware of them anyway. It’s important at these times to allow emotions to be shared in the family.
  • Reassure them about the future. If your child is worried about the event reoccurring, encourage them to think about all the good things they and other people did to stay safe. This will help them to feel strong and empowered.
  • Encourage play and fun - make time for the family to be together and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Let children cry, hang around you or the house, be clingy or physically close. Reassure them that you are ok and won’t leave.

 


Information repurposed from the following toolkits:

  • Emerging Minds, ‘What parents and caregivers can expect in the short term after a disaster or community trauma’, https://bit.ly/3AbRT9V
  • Raising Children Network, ‘Traumatic Events: supporting children in the days and weeks afterwards’, https://bit.ly/3AezJ7m