Like adults, most children's reactions diminish over time.

Parents and other adults can help the recovery process in the following ways:
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If the following common reactions continue for more than a few days they should alert parents to the possibility of more serious trauma reactions and the need for further help:
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Keep communicating: talk about what is happening and how family members feel.This helps prevent children from feeling alone, isolated and misunderstood Reassure children that they are safe and will be cared for Listen and talk to them about the experience. Honest, open discussion is best - even very young children know something has happened. Like adults, the unknown is often more frightening than the reality for children Some children will need extra encouragement or special attention, especially at bedtime Allow expression of emotions - they are part of the healing process; support the child and allow them time to work through it Do things as a family and make sure time is reserved for enjoyable and rewarding experiences together; shared pleasure carries a family through many difficulties Keep family roles clear. Don't expect children to take too much responsibility but, equally, do not become too overprotective.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
GENERAL INFORMATION

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Severe and continued sleep disturbance Severe anxiety on separation from loved ones Continued fears about things which may remind the child of the trauma Behaviour problems at home or school Self-doubts, a desire for withdrawal or other significant changes in emotions or personality A return to "babyish" behaviour that the child had grown out of

If you are concerned, talk to your family doctor, community health centre or school counsellor. You may wish to ask for a referral to a mental health practitioner who specialises in child trauma.The department of psychiatry in your local children’s hospital is also a good source of information, support and treatment if required.

Trauma Reactions in Children
No 6 in the PTSD series of Australian Centre brochures

To find out more about PTSD, other veteran and military mental health issues or the Australian Centre, please contact us at: AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR POSTTRAUMATIC MENTAL HEALTH (INC.) A&RMC, 300 Waterdale Road, Heidelberg Heights 3081 AUSTRALIA. Telephone: (03) 9496 2922 Facsimile: (03) 9496 2830 Email: acpmh-info@unimelb.edu.au WebSite: www.acpmh.unimelb.edu.au

When To Seek Assistance
Like adults, most children will adapt and grow through crisis with the love and support of their family and friends. However, if the child's reactions are particularly severe or prolonged, or if you have other concerns about the way your child is reacting to a traumatic incident, contact someone who is trained to assess the situation and advise you.

What is PTSD?
STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) is a specific psychological reaction that may occur in response to the experience of traumatic events. It can affect people of any age, culture or gender. PTSD comprises three groups of symptoms.The first relates to re-experiencing the trauma, which can take the form of repetitive thoughts, memories and dreams.The second group involves avoidance of reminders, withdrawal from social interaction and difficulty in responding emotionally to others.The third group involves heightened arousal, with reduced sleep, increased jumpiness and prominent anger.

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OSTTRAUMATIC

The following signs may be seen in children following trauma, but do not necessarily indicate the existence of PTSD. Most are normal and will resolve in time with the help of caring family members and friends. However, if signs are too severe or last too long, they may indicate the need for professional assistance. RELIVING THE TRAUMA In traumatised children, reliving may occur in:
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Fearfulness, especially at night or when separated from parents Sleep disturbance and nightmares Grizzling, whining and irritability

ASSOCIATED PROBLEMS Children may develop several associated problems following trauma, including:
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Repetitive play that re-enacts the trauma Distressing dreams of the event that may evolve into general nightmares of monsters or of threats to self or significant others In cases of traumatic loss, children often report experiencing "ghosts" of loved ones Disorganised or agitated behaviour Preoccupation with other traumatic events

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Aches and pains Bed wetting General misbehaviour and "naughtiness" Tantrums and attention seeking behaviour Poor school performance, loss of motivation Sometimes, experience of trauma can result in other problems in the child's development

Post Trauma Symptoms in Children
PTSD may develop in children.Their responses to trauma may, however, differ in important ways to those seen in adults. Children may find it difficult to understand what has happened.They may be unable to describe how they are feeling and instead may express themselves in other ways. Children respond to trauma in a range of ways - there is no typical or "normal" reaction. Nevertheless, some responses are common.

AVOIDANCE AND NUMBING While less common in children than in adults, the following signs may be present:
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Occasionally, the onset of these problems may be delayed until some time after the trauma. Often these signs are misunderstood - it appears the child is just being naughty. However, they may be indicators of a traumatic stress reaction and should be given careful attention.

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Social withdrawal and wanting to be alone Loss of interest in significant activities A sense of foreshortened future: being unable to imagine themselves as grown up A return to "babyish" behaviour

How Can You Help?
Parental responses are very important in helping the child to cope with the aftermath of trauma. It is important for parents to recognise that the child's behaviour may be part of a traumatic stress response, rather than willful behaviour. It is crucial not to become angry and blame the child for this behaviour.

AROUSAL Following trauma, children may become tense and frightened.This may be expressed through:
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Attention and concentration problems Clinging, dependent behaviour