Children and Trauma
Children's reactions to trauma by age
Birth to 2 years: Pre-verbal children are not able to describe their feelings or reactions about the death. They may however, retain memories of sights, sounds or smells. Some reactions may be crying more than usual, wanting to be held or irritability. When older, they may act out parts of the event, especially if they were present at the death.
Pre-School 2 - 6 years: Children in this age range may feel helpless that they don't have the ability to protect themselves or others. They may feel fear and insecurity and cannot yet grasp the concept of permanent loss. Their play may involve enacting parts of the death.
School Age 7 - 10 years: Children of this age range have the ability to understand the permanence of loss. They may become pre-occupied with the death and want to talk about it continually. There is a wide-ranging display of guilt, feelings of failure, or anger.
Pre-Adolescence to Adolescence 11-18 years: In this age range, children's reactions closely resemble those reactions of an adult. They may become involved in drugs or alcohol, or other risk-taking activities, they may feel that the world is a dangerous, unsafe place, yet they may also feel a sense of immortality. They may also be fearful of leaving home. They may be overwhelmed by their feelings, yet not able to discuss them with family members or loved ones.
Remember to be there for your child if he/she wants to talk. Provide a safe place for them to express their feelings, spend extra time with your children and understand that the child has also suffered a loss and will need time to mourn in his/her own way and time.