Kids are traumatized: Here's how to spot it and help

Kids are traumatized: Here’s how to spot it and help

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States, people have faced so many losses. Children are no exception.

While some kids lost family members or friends, others might be mourning the loss of activities, a normal school year, socialization or other tragedies. Helping children cope with trauma has become more important than ever as the delta variant runs wild in many parts of the country.

“We have been taking our kids’ temperatures more in the last year than we have in their whole life. But that’s been their physical temperature,” Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert, told TODAY Parents. “Now we need to take their mental temperature and we need to understand how to check in with them.”

While there has been growing awareness that children are struggling with their mental health, parents can help their children.

“We’ve done a good job in the last year of recognizing that our kids were in a bad spot and it was our responsibility to keep an eye on them and help them,” Gilboa said. “That society-wide vigilance is waning. People aren’t on television every day talking about how hard it is for kids.”

Signs your child may be struggling

Understanding if a child is struggling with their mental health isn’t always easy. Sometimes children complain of physical symptoms, have what seems like a mood swing or sleep a little more or less. Parents who understand their children and foster open dialogue might be able to spot problems earlier.

“It starts with you having a good relational health with your child,” Dr. Candice Jones, an Orlando pediatrician, told TODAY. “If you see that your child has changed behavior or emotions, if they seem like they are not engaged, or enjoying things that they used to enjoy or they’re just out of sorts, take note.”

Signs that a child might be experiencing trauma include:

  • Struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Nightmares
  • Nausea
  • Butterflies
  • Headaches
  • Acting out
  • Melting down over little things
  • Regressed behaviors, such as thumb sucking or bed wedding
  • Anger
  • Poor grades
  • Anhedonia or loss of interest

“If the crying lasts for longer than 20 minutes or they become aggressive, they may shout, scream, curse … those are indications that something is going on that they’re not handling it well,” Annette Nunez, a psychotherapist in private practice in Denver, Colorado, told TODAY Parents. “(Some children) just can’t handle emotional and society regulation. They can’t come to grips with either transitions or any subtle change.”

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