PTSD, Children, and Coronavirus
CHILDREN How are children processing the coronavirus pandemic? They absorb the media and they sense worry in their parents and role models.
All of this while being stuck at home, adjusting to virtual classes and a new lifestyle. Some kids will resiliently cope with these challenges, but some may have greater difficulty.
A serious world event like the outbreak may actually cause trauma for some children. This can develop and become PTSD.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the known causes of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is “natural or manmade disasters.” Current events certainly qualify. Another cause is “witnessing another person go through” similar traumatic events. Seeing the traumatization of a family member or friend may in turn traumatize the child.
How can we know if this is happening to our children?
Signs of PTSD developing in a child include common symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. However, other signs can be unwanted thoughts of the traumatic event, avoidance of things that remind them of the event, negatives moods and emotions taking over since the original trauma, and anxious feelings which may disrupt sleep/concentration.
Jumpiness and paranoia are also common signs of PTSD.
So what if you think your child is suffering from PTSD because of the pandemic? Most parents are not mental health professionals. How can you help?
Firstly, set a good example for the kids. Divulging too much or too little about the situation can send a young imagination into overdrive. Fear and catastrophizing thoughts can result. It is best to keep the outbreak discussion basic, with an emphasis on what to do proactively (hand washing, social distancing, etc.) Fear mongering is a big no-no.
Any marital or relationship issues should be set aside for now – this is the time to focus on the kids. A calm, problem-solving attitude will show children how mature adults handle crises. This goes a long way to mitigate the psychological impact of these uncertain times.
Give the kid space, and let them talk to you about what’s bothering them at their own pace. Let them cope in their own way, and give them structure and responsibilities to keep them active. This will make it easier for life to eventually go back to normal.
Even if you win the “exemplary parents” award, a child may still get distressed. If symptoms persist for over a month professional treatment may be necessary.
Treatment for PTSD in children involves various therapies. The most widely recognized is “CBT” (cognitive behavioral therapy). It works by challenging old thought patterns and replacing them with healthier coping methods. Used to treat various other disorders, CBT is very effective for PTSD.
Another form of treatment is “EMDR” (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy) where eye movements are used to influence new mental habits.
“Play therapy” is used for much younger children who can not articulate or deal with their trauma.
Group therapy is available for PTSD as well – some sufferers find sharing their experience with others is an invaluable treatment method.
In some cases medication is used, but only temporarily.
These are tough times for all of us but we mustn’t forget to check in on the kids. If you think your child is developing PTSD from the current events (or any other reason) please reach out for professional guidance.
Note: For assistance with behavioral health issues, contact us at 305-740-3340 or schedule an appointment with BregmanMD.