Traumatic events can happen to anyone, however, children lack the coping mechanisms that adults have developed and are especially vulnerable to the effects of trauma. As a parent, you may feel powerless to help your child pull through a traumatic event such as a serious accident, a violent attack or the death of a loved one. Your child will also struggle with feelings of helplessness and confusion. There are a few steps you can take to help your child cope with the traumatic event and process the experience in a healthy way. Several of these steps involve dialogue and attentive listening as well as therapeutic treatments. The role of pediatric physical therapy can be vital in both relieving the stress symptoms that accompany a traumatic event and in helping your child overcome the event using techniques such as massage therapy, targeted exercises and deep breathing.
1. Be calm and patient
Your child is relying on you to be his/her point of stability in a world that was just shown to be scary and unstable. As a parent, your emotions are both valid and valuable to share, but try to project a sense of calm and patience in front of your child.
2. Be attentive
Listen to your child and watch how he or she behaves. Different age groups will respond differently and you need to be ready to listen with an open ear. Keep in mind that older children are more inclined to be silent, although they still feel the weight of the traumatic event.
3. Be comforting
A traumatic event can shatter a child’s sense of safety and security. As a parent, you can reassure your child that he or she is not alone and will recover. Show your child safety and reassure them of their security after a traumatic event.
4. Connect mind and body
The mind-body connection can be a central point to any coping strategy after a tragic event. Pediatric physical therapy helps children to relieve their stress, move past a trauma and develop coping mechanisms. For children and even adolescents, parents can employ specifically designed massages to relax their children and relieve tension. Therapeutic physical exercise can help children in channeling their feelings in a healthy way, rather than withholding them to create deeper emotional scarring. Ask your pediatric physical therapist about deep breathing exercises that are effective for children, adolescents and adults when coping with a traumatic situation.