covid and childhood trauma

I just read a good article concerning children and how some may react traumatically to the covid pandemic. I thought I would summarize two helpful parts of this article: A) typical reactions some children can have, and B) when should parents consider professional help.  If you would like to read the entire article please click on this button.

The author states that a child’s reactions will vary depending on various factors: age, developmental level, social support among other factors.

Typical Reactions

Dr. Brown explains the following typical reactions that young children (ages 10 and under) may exhibit after a traumatic event.

Unwanted Thoughts or Images

Your child may replay certain thoughts or images in their mind or have an increase in nightmares—which may or may not be clearly related to the traumatic events. Some children describe feeling unable to control these thoughts or images. Some children may draw, write, talk, or play about the events repeatedly.”

Negative Feelings

A child may struggle with a range of negative feelings including sadness, hopelessness, irritability and anger. Some children may become overwhelmed by their feelings and act younger than their age. Others may become anxious, especially when separated from caregivers. Your child may display behaviors they had previously outgrown, such as becoming clingier, bedwetting, separation anxiety, or having sleep difficulties.

Problems with Attention

A child may avoid, or become agitated if unable to avoid, people, places, and things that remind them of what is happening. Children may also have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or other activities, seem more forgetful, or seem like they are daydreaming.”

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

 Children may startle more easily or feel like there is danger or a threat present. A child may have an increase in stomachaches, headaches, or other complaints, or have a change in appetite. Your child may also have difficulty falling or staying asleep.”

When Should Parents Consider Professional Help for Their Child?

The author of the article reports that research has shown while some children exhibit signs of stress in reaction to traumatic events, these symptoms will likely go away within a few days or weeks, while some may have a more lasting impact.  If your child’s symptoms do not decrease in two to four weeks after the event, it may be good to see a child or adolescent specialist. This is hard to assess during a prolonged event such as a pandemic, so if in doubt consult with a professional.”

Other situations that may warrant a visit with a mental health specialist include the following:

  • If your family is unable to meet the needs of your child, including if you or other caregivers are struggling because of the traumatic events and want or need support.
  • If your child’s symptoms are severe or significantly interfere with their daily routines, their ability to socialize, or do schoolwork.
  • If your child has been previously exposed to trauma, previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder, or struggles with anxiety or other problems. These children are more vulnerable for developing ongoing traumatic stress problems.
  • If your child has experienced loss or grief, this may warrant additional support even if the situation does not appear traumatizing.

The author states “As a parent, you know your child best, and you should reach out to a professional if you have concerns about your child’s reactions, or your ability to help your child. Try to find a provider with knowledge of trauma and evidence-based or evidence-informed treatments for treating traumatic stress.

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