Ways to Take Care of Your Child as well as Yourself

Posted on October 23, 2013, in Grief and Trauma

Ways to Take Care of Your Child

What your child needs from you after a trauma will depend upon your child’s age and what can help them feel the safest, even who can help them feel the safest. There is no one response that fits every child. Many suggestions are provided throughout this website under, How to Help, Concerns, and Activities.

First, try what makes sense for you; what is “do-able” for you. If that works, great! If it does not work, it simply is not meeting your child’s direct needs. This is not a failure; it is just not the right thing to do for your child. Try something else. If after several tries nothing has worked contact TLC for advice. Your child will see your effort and will know that you are not going to give up on him or abandon him. This alone will help him feel more secure.

However, before you try anything to calm or soothe your child ask him:

  1. What can I do to help you feel better or safer?
  2. What can I get you to help you feel better or safer?

Often these two questions tell you exactly what you need to do. Trust that your child knows what might be best for him at this time.

Be as predictable as can be in your routines at home while your child is present. Consistency helps create a sense of safety.
Do not show your fears and worries to your child, as this will frighten him. Talk about your fears to your spouse, friends, or trauma specialist. Bring laughter into your home. If your child sees you laugh, he will feel so much more at ease.
Read books to your child about others who have survived. Click on Books for suggestions. For teens, leave the book lying around where they can see it. If they need to, they will read it.

Unconditional love and acceptance is the best medicine. This is not always easy to give your child when you are angry, upset, or terrified yourself. Sometimes traumatized children simply need to release the stress created by their fears and they do this by fighting or verbally attacking. As a parent, your initial response to fighting needs to be to insure that your child is not hurt nor hurts others. Words, of course, do not cause bodily harm, even though they can be difficult to hear at times.

If this outburst is trauma-driven, often after this release your child will be calm and in control. This is not about a physical or verbal release, but a release of the intense stress of trauma, of trauma residue.

This is when your child needs you the most. Your child needs you to stay in control. Do not lose control, scream, or over-react. This may not be easy, but it is so important!

Difficulties are often experienced in this area because of the many contributing factors on both the parent’s and the child’s part. You need to talk to your child to get you the best possible suggestions on what your child needs from you.

Infants and Toddlers
Infants and toddlers do not have the ability to verbally tell you what is bothering them. They react to you and the world around them purely at a sensory level. See Infants and Toddlers to appreciate how their systems, bodies, and developing brains react to trauma and what you as a parent can do to restore their critical need to feel safe, secure, and cozy.

If you do not believe that your infant or toddler cannot be traumatized, you will prevent your child from starting life with the foundation needed to not only survive the worst life may bring us but to thrive despite these challenges. It all begins with experiencing the world around us, (as an infant/toddler) as safe and comforting.

Without safety and comfort everyone and everything is to be feared and not trusted. A child living in fear is a terrorized child who may physically survive but will find it difficult to thrive in ways that would make a parent proud.

Being a parent today is so much more difficult than it was even fifteen years ago. There are so many new challenges, situations, and questions for which most parents are not trained to manage or answer.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact TLC. We certainly do not have all the answers, but we can help you find them.

Ways to Take Care of Yourself
It is very important to your recovery to get enough rest, especially the first 4-6 weeks following the trauma.

If you cannot sleep at night, take catnaps of 15 minutes - 1/2 hour during the day.

If you wake-up during the night because of traumatic dreams, know these dreams will pass in time. Do whatever comforts you. Read a good book until you become sleepy again. Have a snack, watch television, listen to music, write, or do some housework.
Remember, this is only a temporary change.

Exercise of some kind is important to help relieve you of the tension that a traumatic experience creates. Even if you have not been exercising recently, go for a short walk, or walk the dog an extra time. If you already exercise, add a few minutes to your usual routine.

Avoid drinking more caffeine than usual. Caffeine is a stimulant and will add stress to an already over-stressed system. Also do not drink alcohol in excess, as it will interfere with your need for a sound sleep at night. Sleepless nights will further deplete your energy.

NOTE: If you are having difficulty relaxing or sleeping following the trauma, call your doctor for a prescription to temporarily help you sleep. If your sleeplessness persists beyond 4-6 weeks consult with a trauma specialist immediately.

Do not self medicate.

Do not make commitments for the first four weeks. The tendency for some is to take on additional responsibilities thinking it will help them forget. In reality, it frequently drains them of energy, delays the healing process, and intensifies reactions that may emerge in the following weeks.

Protect and nurture yourself. It’s okay to want to be by yourself, or just stay home with the family. Eat whatever your comfort foods are, as frequently as you need. Do the things that relax you, that give you some pleasure.

Expect that new memories and reactions to the trauma are likely to emerge 4-6 weeks following the event. This does not mean things are getting worse. Generally these newer memories and reactions mean you are, in fact, feeling more protected, safer, and rested enough to now deal with them.

Understand that your trauma reactions need to be expressed and experienced by you in order for you to heal. Kids, for example, go to the same horror movie, like Nightmare On Elm Street, four, five, six times, so they can master their fear, the terror they experience when seeing the movie for the first time. Traumatic dreams, intrusive thoughts, images about what happened, and other trauma-specific reactions repeat themselves in much the same way. In most cases they will become less upsetting and frightening to you and after 4-6 weeks and will occur less and less frequently.

If any trauma reaction continues beyond six weeks from when the trauma occurred, you really do need to talk with a trauma consultant. If you do not, such reactions can become chronic, as well as create additional problems for you. We all have different reactions. What scares you may not scare someone else. If you are experiencing reactions after the six-week period, it does not mean something is terribly wrong with you. It means your past experiences are such that you just don’t know how to respond to what happened. Generally talking to a trauma specialist a few times will resolve the problem.

A traumatic experience can terrorize the strongest and healthiest person. It can induce such terror, that our lives become disorganized or disoriented. We become someone strange or act in ways we have never acted before. This can panic us.
Trauma is not an experience we should keep to ourselves. It is an experience we should work through as quickly as possible. Do not hesitate to consult with a trauma specialist when your reactions have the best of you, or because you want to know what else you might have to be prepared to experience because of your trauma.

Finally, traumatic experiences tend to change the way we look at life, our behaviors, activities, relationships, and our future. In the weeks to come expect to see the world differently, your friends, loved ones, and work relationships. In time, you will redefine what you want for yourself.

The first 4-6 weeks is not a time to make major decisions. Put what you can on hold. During recovery from a trauma everything is a bit distorted. Whenever possible wait to deal with major decisions until you have had time (4-6 weeks) to reorder your life and feel stable once again.

Should you need further assistance contact TLC.

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