Following the Westgate attack, many children who were present at the scene were traumatized. Some of them got shot. Others saw their friends and family dying right before their eyes. Some even faced the terrorists face to face. This attack is likely to cause trauma and long-term psychological issues.
How does a parent, relative, guardian, neighbour or concerned person deal with children who are mentally wounded as well as (for some) physically wounded in a traumatic incident?
Here is an article I got from a blog on how to deal with such children. Here is part of the article.
Young children (age five and younger) may experience new fears such as separation anxiety or fear of strangers or animals. They may act younger or lose a skill they have already mastered (such as toilet training).
Primary school-aged children (ages six to 11) may get parts of the traumatic experience confused or out of order when recalling the memory. They may complain of body symptoms that have no medical cause (such as stomach aches). They may stare into space or seem “spacey,” or startle easily.
Adolescents (ages 12 to 18) may experience visual, auditory, or bodily flashbacks of the events, have unwanted distressing thoughts or images of the events, demonstrate impulsive and aggressive behaviours, or use alcohol or drugs to try to feel better. They may feel depressed or have suicidal thoughts.
What can adults do to help?
• Let the child know it is normal to feel upset when something bad or scary happens.
• Encourage the child to express feelings and thoughts, without making judgments.
• Protect the child or adolescent from further exposure to traumatic events, as much as possible.
• Return to normal routines as much as possible.
• As the child’s most important routine, the school can be a major healing environment. Educate school personnel about the child’s needs. Reassure the child that it was not his or her fault and that adults will try to take care of him or her.
• Allow the child to feel sad and/or cry.
• Give the child a sense of control and choice by offering reasonable options about daily activities (choosing meals, clothes, etc.).
• If the child regresses (or starts to do things he or she did when younger), adults can help by being supportive, remembering that it is a common response to trauma, and not criticising the behaviour.
For the full article read children and trauma: How to help.
Mental Health: 8 Myths About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Parenting: Anxiety In Children – Symptoms And Strategies To Help