Helping Your Child Cope With Trauma

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Much has been reported and said in the news about traumatic events reported in a school recently. Many more other incidents occur but are not reported in the news. Let’s take a moment to understand how we can best help our child cope with trauma.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to an intense event that threatens or causes harm. The harm can be physical or emotional, real or perceived. It can threaten the child or someone close to them. Trauma can be the result of a single event, or it can result from exposure to multiple events over time.

Potentially traumatic events include:

    • natural disasters or accidents
    • unexpected deaths or diagnoses
    • abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional)
    • separation from loved ones
    • unpredictable parental behaviour due to addiction or mental illness
    • witnessing harm to a loved one or pet (e.g., domestic or community violence)

 

bored student - coping with trauma

“Many can expect to be affected to a `manageable degree'”, said adjunct associate professor Clare Yeo, Senior Principal Clinical Psychologist at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), in response to the recent event.

Affected children will react to these events in different ways. Some will:

    • constantly replay the event in their minds
    • feel confused or worried, or blame themselves for what happened
    • be sad, angry, irritable, guilty or ashamed
    • behave in difficult ways, disobey rules, cling to you or avoid other people
    • become quiet or withdrawn
    • suddenly not be able to do things they could do before, like using the toilet or getting dressed
    • have physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches or loss of appetite
    • have nightmares, problems sleeping or concentrating.

In the days and weeks after the event, comfort, support and reassurance can help a child feel safe. As a parent, you can help your child manage their fears, guide them through their grief and help them recover healthily.

Supporting Children (of all ages) After A Traumatic Event

Children of all ages need help to cope with trauma and recovering from it in the days and weeks afterwards. Here are some things you can do: Read More

Helping Teenagers Recover After A Traumatic Event

Every young person is different. After a traumatic event, some teenagers might feel isolated from their peers. In addition to what we have already mentioned above, they may also exhibit the following symptoms of distress:

    • overreacting to minor irritations
    • repetitively thinking about the traumatic event and talking about it often
    • being very protective of family and friends
    • returning to younger ways of behaving
    • increased need for independence
    • self-absorption and caring only about what is immediately important
    • loss of interest in school, friends, hobbies, and life in general
    • having a pessimistic outlook on life, being cynical and distrusting of others
    • depression and feelings of hopelessness

To cope with the trauma, some may get involved in risky behaviour like drinking. Here are some ideas for supporting your teenage child: Read More

Helping School-age Pre-teens Recover After A Traumatic Event

After a traumatic event, children in this age group may spend a lot of time thinking about their safety and the safety of others. They may also feel responsible for the traumatic event and have difficulty concentrating at school.

Other than what we outlined above, here are some other ways you can help them understand and cope with their reactions to and their feelings about the traumatic event: Read More

Help with Coping After A Traumatic Event

Recovering after a traumatic event takes time, and you and your child don’t have to do it alone. It is always good to check in with teachers and other adults around your child to make sure your child is getting the support they need.

  • If you have any concerns about how your child is coping with the trauma, talk with your child’s school teacher. Their school teacher can refer you or your child to counselling services and mental health professionals, local to your child’s school, who can help you and your child.
  • If your child prefers anonymity outside of their school, they can speak to one of our senior Elucidation teachers. Our teachers will lend a listening ear. If appropriate and where necessary, they will refer you or your child to guidance counselling services and mental health professionals. Do be patient as they may not have a list of the resources available on hand.
Helplines available to the public:
    • National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868
    • Samaritans of Singapore 24-hour Hotline: 1800-221-4444
    • Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
    • Institute of Mental Health: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
    • Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children)
    • AWARE Women’s Helpline: 1800-777-555 (10 am – 6 pm, Monday to Friday)
    • CARE Singapore: 6978 2728 (Mon – Fri: 10am – 5pm)
    • TOUCHline (By TOUCH Community Services): 1800 377 2252 (Mon – Fri: 9 am – 6 pm)
    • Fei Yue Community Service: https://ec2.sg/
      (Live chat Weekdays: 10 am – 12 pm; 2 pm – 5 pm; Closed on Public Holidays)

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References: Our reading list for this article
    1. Yeoh, G. (2021 Jul 21). Coping with trauma: Acknowledge incident and talk about emotions, say experts after River Valley High death. Channel News Asia. Retrieved 26 Jul 2021 from Channel News Asia website: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/river-valley-high-death-coping-with-trauma-students-teachers-15254074
    2. Helping Children Cope After a Traumatic Event. (n.d.) The Child Mind Institute. Retrieved 26 Jul 2021 from https://childmind.org/guide/helping-children-cope-traumatic-event/
    3. Traumatic events: supporting children in the days and weeks afterwards. (n.d.). Retrieved 26 Jul 2021 from The Raising Children Network website: https://raisingchildren.net.au/preschoolers/connecting-communicating/coping-with-trauma/trauma-support-for-children
    4. Newman, K. (2015 November 30) Nine Tips for Talking to Kids about Trauma. Retrieved 27 Jul 2021 from The Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley website: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/nine_tips_for_talking_to_kids_about_trauma
    5. CNN. (2015 November 18). French father explains terror attacks to his young son [Video]. Retrieved 28 Jul 2021 from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2S9An4AX0M
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