Caregivers – Part III
Week 3 – This week I will concentrate on 4 of the 9 points that Dr. Perry gives us for “How can I help? I encourage you to follow the link and read all of the points, it is worth your time.
A. Don’t be afraid to talk about the traumatic event.
Dr. Perry starts by restating what he has already said in the frequent questions. Children do not benefit from ‘not thinking about it’. Children can sense that his/her caretakers are upset about the event, and because of this they will not bring it up. In the long run, this only makes the child’s recovery more problematic. He encourages us not to bring it up on your own, but when the child brings it up, don’t avoid discussion. We should listen to the child, answer questions, and provide comfort and support. Do not worry if you do not have We often have good verbal explanations, listening and not avoiding or over-reacting to the subject comforts the child and has a long-lasting positive effect.
B. Provide a consistent, predictable pattern for the day.
Make sure the child has a structure to the day and knows the pattern. Try (key word here is “try”, at today’s hectic pace I know this is not easy) to have consistent times for meals, school, homework, quiet time, playtime, dinner and chores. If your schedule includes new or different activities, let them know beforehand and explain why this day’s pattern is different. One important point Dr. Perry makes that I do not think most understand is – Don’t underestimate how important it is for children to know that their caretakers are ‘in control.’ It is frightening for traumatized children to sense that the people caring for them are, themselves, disorganized, confused and anxious. The flip side is there is no expectation of perfection; everyone has been affected by the trauma and may be overwhelmed, or anxious. When you find yourself being this way, simply help the child understand why, and that these reactions are normal.
C. Protect the child.
In todays “hands off world” it is sometimes hard to realize we do have a responsibility to protect. Do not hesitate to stop activities that are upsetting or re-traumatizing for your child. If you observe increased symptoms in a child that occur in a certain situation or following exposure to certain movies, or any activity, avoid these activities. Try to restructure or limit activities that cause escalation of symptoms in the traumatized child.
D. Give the child ‘choices’ and some sense of control.
When a traumatized child feels that they do not have control of a situation, they will predictably get more symptomatic. If a child is given some choice or some element of control in an activity with an adult, they will feel safer, comfortable and will be able to feel, think and act in a more ‘mature’ fashion. When a child is having difficulty with compliance, work the ‘consequence’ as a choice for them – “You have a choice- you can choose to do what I have asked or you can choose…..” Again, this simple technique with the child gives them some sense of control and can help the situation.
I hope this 3 week summary of Dr. Perry’s presentation is helpful to you. When you have time read the entire article, it is worth the investment. Caregivers of traumatized children are our heroes, thank you for all you do. If you would like to read more about the Centers treatment of traumatized children click on the link.