School shootings and other types of traumatic experiences can have long-lasting effects, but with proper support and early intervention, children can heal and move beyond the trauma. Nancy Rodda, senior director of clinical services for Genessee County Community Mental Health in Flint, Michigan, states, “With the right help, children are very resilient. We have many different ways to help people who have experienced a trauma now that allow them to come out on the other side as survivors.”
Children with PTSD typically experience three types of symptoms: re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance, and increased agitation.
Children ages 5 to 12 with PTSD may not have flashbacks or problems remembering parts of the trauma, the way adults experience PTSD. Instead, they may show signs in their play, according to the National Center for PTSD.
Trauma symptoms can include headaches, stomach aches, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, irritability, increased dependence on parents, regressive behavior. Whether or not a child develops long-term problems like PTSD and anxiety disorders sometimes depends on their circumstances and history before a traumatic event: their past history of trauma, their family support system, emotional and mental health stressors, and family history.
- Children need to be reunited with family as quickly as possible after a tragedy.
- Re-establish routine as soon as possible.
- Listen to your children and provide reassurance that they are safe.
- Limit exposure to news coverage and other traumatic or violent depictions.
- Allow children to ask questions, and answer them honestly in age-appropriate ways.
- Talk about the trauma without dwelling on it: grief, anger, anxiety, fears,
- Look for changes in behavior and be tolerant of regression: the need for a teddy bear, thumb-sucking, the desire for a favorite blanket, or bedwetting.
- See the counsel of professionals and consider consulting The Child & Family Traumatic Stress Intervention Program. This program helps increase communication between parents and children and decrease long-term ill effects of trauma.