Trinity County Office of Education
Sarah Supahan – County Superintendent of Schools
www.tcoek12.org • (530) 623-2861
Helping Your Child Recover from Trauma
Children may be experiencing distress related to events associated with the recent fires. The most important thing you can do in times of trauma is to help your child feel safe and protected. This is the first step in the recovery process. Your presence is probably the single most important factor in helping a child recover in a healthy way from a disturbing event.
“Trauma” is what the person experiences inside, so one child may be experiencing traumatic stress while another child may not. Adults should carefully watch for behavioral changes that can provide clues into what the child is experiencing. There are lists of possible symptoms to watch for online, but here are a few:
- Sleeping too much, too little, trouble getting to sleep (such as due to fear) or staying asleep (a distinct change from usual)
- Being more talkative or less talkative; being unusually quiet or remote
- Lack of interest in activities they usually enjoy
- Becoming more angry, tearful, or aggressive than usual
- Unusually high level of anger/excessive temper
- Changes including bedwetting or diarrhea
- Complaints like a stomach ache, headache, nausea, body aches, etc.
- Fear or strong startle response to loud or sudden noises, sirens, household sounds, etc.
- Other unreasonable fears
- Difficulty separating from parents
- Rituals of behavior like rocking, thumb sucking, or humming, that is new
- Other sudden, new changes in a child’s regular behavior
Routines can create a sense of safety and protection to children, so keeping or returning to your typical daily routines as much as possible - such as a regular bedtime - can be very helpful.
Don’t push young children to talk about their experience. Take your child’s lead...when they feel ready to talk, be ready to listen. Be sure to let them know it is okay to ask questions and share their feelings. Sometimes children will choose to talk to someone else about their experience. This is typical and it’s helpful not to take it personally. Children tend to process such information in small bursts and may talk freely to someone nearby when they are thinking or feeling something about the event. Engaging in some age appropriate side-by-side activities, like walking, drawing or coloring, working on a puzzle, gardening, or cooking together may create moments when your child feels like talking.
Babies and children watch your mood. When you are distressed, they will notice subtle changes in your face, voice, and behavior even when you think you may be disguising it. Do your best to model calm behavior and healthy self-care. Take time to make sure you are eating well-balanced meals, sleeping, exercising and receiving proper medical care. If you feel unable to care for your child at times, seek support from other caring adults who can look after your child.
If your child has shown signs of distress, or if you are experiencing distress yourself and need help to find ways to cope, consider consulting with your child’s school, a medical doctor or mental health professional. Contact Health and Human Services at 623-1265, or Behavioral Health Services at 623-1362.