It is a big bad world out there. Fathers try their best to keep the children safe. But they do no succeed all the time. It is the worst nightmare for any parent that their kids experience a traumatic experience that might scar them for life. Parents are sometimes unaware of what might cause trauma to their kids.
Deaths of close relatives, witnessing an accident, or being bullied at school, can cause kids to develop fear for the unknown and lead to restlessness. Parents have to be careful not to expose their kids to sudden and graphic events which might have detrimental effects on their extremely impressionable minds.
How can fathers ensure that kids emerge out of trauma?
- By making them feel safe.
- By being honest about the traumatic events.
- By shielding them from further dangers.
- By remaining calm.
- Developing a routine in the kid’s lifestyle.
Here is how fathers can help overcome trauma
Fathers can ensure their safety
When kids undergo trauma, their minds are in a constant struggle to stay calm. The smallest departure from the ordinary can raise fear in them. They develop a heightened sense of danger. In this mental state, the kids become fearful of activities and happenings that might seem mundane to the parents.
And as a result, parents might fail to sufficiently appreciate the extent of trouble their kids are in. It is vital that fathers understand the smallest mishap can make the kids recall the traumatic experiences and lead to a relapse. Understanding the new mental state of the kids should be the very first step that parents take.
- Make them feel at ease: What fathers can do to ensure that the kids do not fall into the trauma headspace again is to make it very clear to them that they are safe. Fathers can make them feel secure and away from any scope of the danger.
Spending as much time with them as possible, hugging them, holding them close and repeating phrases that will comfort them is required. Children look up to the adults to save them during times of crisis and the presence and reassurance from fathers can go a long way in clearing their traumatic mentality.
Epitomize calmness yourself
Kids become restless after undergoing a traumatic experience. In this situation, it falls upon the fathers to ensure that calm descends on the household. It is understandable that parents might also be anxious or shaken by some sudden untoward incident. But they need to understand that younger minds will be affected in a much worse manner.
And to take care of them, the fathers have to hide their fears and anxiety and pose as the calm paternal figure that kids might yearn for. By doing this, fathers can greatly allay their fear and bring them a semblance of normalcy in their life.
- Kids with strong father figures recuperate: Kids who come in contact with fathers who provide steady and undeterred support, recuperate from their traumatic experience sooner and more healthily. Post-traumatic stress is often accompanied by unobjective fears and irrational anxieties.
It is that father’s duty to treat the fears of the kids objectively and prove to them that the worst is over and that they are there to protect them from any harm. By reinforcing the belief in them that the fathers know better, and they are there to protect the kids in case of any dangers, traumatic experiences can be overcome.
Develop a routine lifestyle
Traumatic experiences can wreak havoc in the brittle psyches of kids. The extent and magnitude of mental injury afflicted often take years to gauge for doctors, let alone treat. Parents often feel disheartened and start believing that they cannot do anything to do make things better for the kids.
Fathers make the mistake of underestimating their power and influence in making things better for the kids. They resort to professional help and stay confined in the belief that only doctors and psychologists can work wonders. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A lot of how they behave matters as well.
- Make boring the new normal: With the massive disruption that kids might face as a result of trauma, kids feel lost. They do not get a bearing of the activities to perform and start feeling progressively confused. In this situation, fathers can create routines for the kids to follow on a daily basis.
Make life predictable for them so that they are not left anxious in any event. If they visit schools, drop them at school yourself at the same time every day, do not make them wait while picking them up, have dinner together, and at the same time, take them to bed following a routine. As kids start falling into a routine, they start trusting the world around them more and more.
Keep their minds occupied
Post-traumatic stress often visits kids at infrequent and the most unreliable hours. It can cause fits of confusion and meltdowns randomly and are very hard to foresee. No one, not even the kids would be able to predict what event or occasion acts as a trigger for them. This makes managing kids who have undergone traumatic experiences a very difficult and risky business.
But fathers have to do it, nevertheless. Fathers can work towards keeping them occupied at all times. As children stay occupied for longer durations, they have lesser instances of relapsing into a traumatic mindset.
- Make life fun: The most obvious way of keeping their minds off the traumatic events is to occupy them with activities they love. Encourage them to keep doing activities that they seek the most fun out of. It could be playing, swimming, painting, etc. As kids start immersing themselves in fun and frolic their minds start healing and the events that caused the trauma slowly fades into the background.
Keeping their minds occupied in their favorite activities also introduces a semblance of normalcy into their lives. Encourage them to meet up with friends and ensure they do not spend a lot of time alone. Being lonely can lead to a recap of the traumatic experiences.
Be honest with them
When kids undergo trauma, they start doubting reality and the people around them. It becomes very hard for them to feel safe at any place or with anyone. They become hesitant to approach elders around them in the fear of being misunderstood or worse still not being taken seriously.
Fathers need to identify this mental state that they might be going through and try to engage in honest conversations with them. Often kids have a very incorrect or misconstrued sense of the events that might have happened. Engaging in talks with them and understanding their point of view is the only way to get through this.
- Do not pretend to know everything: Kids appreciate adults who are honest and empathetic. Being dismissive of their fears and pretending to know how they feel can make them distrust you. Kids only open up to adults they know they can trust. And to earn their trust, fathers need to be as truthful as possible.
If you do not know how they feel, or do not have all the answers be frank about it and let them know as much. Honest adults come across as more mature and capable of handling difficult situations and so the kids trust them more.
Open up about the incident
Traumatic events start having bigger and worse impacts on the psyche of the kids when those events are tried to be buried from conversations. When adults stop talking about it and people get uneasy when the events come up in discussions, the kids start behaving even worse to those memories.
The uneasiness in the adults when it comes to the topic makes the kids even more disturbed. They start regarding those events to be really bad which even the adults are not fine thinking over.
Not talking about the events and trying to put a façade of normalcy without addressing the lingering issue would not solve the problem. The trauma will fester in the kids’ psyche like an unhealed wound and might cause serious issues years down the line.
- Let us talk it out: What fathers should try and do is explain to their kids what exactly happened. Most of the time, kids who face the deaths of close relatives fail to understand the meaning of it all and start having serious anxiety issues. Fathers can always sit down with them and talk to them.
Explain objectively what happened and why it is a perfectly normal thing to have happened. Let them know the scientific facts behind the events and use the opportunity to make them more mature. Not talking about it would not solve the issue and the kids may grow up fearing death their entire lives.
Understand your kid is special
Kids, like adults, have extremely distinct personalities. No two kids are similar. They interpret events differently, react to them differently and most importantly deal with their traumas differently. Parents should not make the mistake of reading books and assuming that their kids should behave to traumas in a specific manner.
Similarly, to expect them to react to those traumas, in the same manner, is a mistake. Understanding your kids and the manner in which they view the world aids the fathers in getting through to them. Comparing your kids to others is the easiest and most common fallacy that parents commit.
- To each his own: Some kids develop anger issues while others go into a shell on being exposed to traumatic experiences. It is often seen that a class of students exposed to horrendous incidents like a school shooting or an accident, react very contrary to each other. Some kids get over those events very easily and some stay stuck on those events for days.
Do not force your kid to overcome his or her coping mechanism according to some preset notion or looking at other kids. Let them do it their own way and be supportive of their differences all the time.
Use physical and mental exercises
Once the acknowledgment of grief and trauma is done, it is important for both the father and the kid to move towards mental rehabilitation. Talking about the issues is fine and breaks a lot of barriers. It also helps the kids trust the fathers more, enabling a more mature discussion regarding their fears and anxieties.
But the fathers need to understand that sometimes mere talking does not help. At times, the mental trauma can have physical aftereffects as well. Some kids develop breathing difficulties and some start experiencing sleep deprivation etc. It is important that parents identify these problems at the earliest.
- Suggest basic wellness exercises: Parents would do good to introduce breathing techniques and other basic yoga practices to help the kids deal with the physical tolls of mental trauma. They can even seek the help of professionals and learn what are the wellness trainings that they can introduce to their kids.
Wellness trainings do not just help them in overcoming their traumatic mindset, but also helps them in the long run. It is always good to have some therapeutic exercises handy in life.
Listen to all they say
The biggest mistakes fathers can make is be overbearing and trivialize the struggle of the kids. The importance of listening to them out cannot be overemphasized. Kids can only overcome their issues if adults give it the importance that it deserves. The fathers usually make the cardinal mistake of underplaying the fears of the kids and try to talk over them.
They have this belief that they can talk the fears out of their kids’ psyche. This is as wrong as it is stupid. Listen to what your kids have to say and work on his fears in such a way that he can truly move on.
Do not establish a one-way communication and try your best to imbibe everything your kids say. This will solve more problems than fathers imagine.
Fathers make a lot of mistakes while trying to help their kids deal with trauma. They should acknowledge the fact that their inactions or wrong actions could easily harm their kids even more. The fear that has managed to grow in their psych will try to grab onto it unless fathers become more empathetic, proactive, and calm.
Fathers are the source of strength and confidence for most kids and in times of trouble they should stand up to that challenge. Only they can make things better for their kids and although the professionals will always be there to help them, at the end of the day, the kids should know that their fathers can keep them safe from any and all dangers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do kids react differently to different incidents?
They do. The same kids react differently to the different events and different kids react differently to the same event. Generalizing the effect of an event on kids is a mistake the adults usually make. Always try to understand your kids according to their personality.
Does listening to kids explain their trauma, help them?
It most definitely does. Kids always get closer and start trusting the adults more when they seem ready to listen to them. Speaking down to them or shutting them never succeeds in solving the issue.
Are all the fears of the kids unobjective and rooted in myths?
Not necessarily. Many a time, the kids do develop irrational fears out of real events. On those occasions, the fathers can talk to them and make them understand that their fears are not real. But it also so happens, that sometimes they have legitimate fears.
These can be dealt with by being frank with them and letting them know that although their fears are justified, they are safe from them.
Can kids be made to overcome their fears by their parents?
Most definitely. Parents can do much more to alleviate their fears than professionals. By being open with them and engaging in constant dialogues with them, parents can make them believe that they are safe.