Children seeing their parents in crisis can become anxious and frightened. This doesn’t mean that the parents should conceal their emotions, but rather that they should be aware of how their own reactions affect children. Talk to your children and tell them that you are coping with the crisis even though you are distressed. Children and adolescents feel just as sad, hopeless and confused as adults during a crisis, but often they will express their emotions through play and activity rather than in words.

Children need to swing between being immersed in play and activity here-and-now, and coping with the grief and loss. By swinging back and forth the child can gradually process the loss.

Belinda Ekornås – Special Adviser, RVTS East

Children in different age groups react differently to a traumatic incident:

1-4 years
Thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, clinging to parents, starting to wet or soil themselves again, nightmares, difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, difficulties talking or eating, fear of being alone, becoming irritable and/or easily startled.

5-10 years
Anger, confusion, withdrawal, attention seeking, school refusal, nightmares, concentration difficulties, bellyache, headache, fear of the dark, fear of being injured, fear of being alone.

11-13 years
Changes in appetite, sleep problems, body aches, skin problems, behavioural problems, problems in school, anxiety, fear of losing friends and family, acting like nothing happened.

14-18 years
Physical reactions (rash, GI-symptoms, asthma, headache), changes in appetite and sleep, losing interest in things they normally enjoy doing, lacking energy, behavioural problems, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt. Some of these reactions are common in this age group regardless of whether the adolescent is facing a crisis or not.