Supporting children through unexpected events:
Serious incidents or accidents
Thankfully, incidents such as traffic accidents or serious injuries, are rare. But if someone close to you is involved in a serious incident, knowing how to talk to your child about such events in an age-appropriate way can be helpful for them, and you.
How do serious incidents impact your child?
Seeing or being involved in a serious incident can understandably cause distress. Children and young people are more vulnerable to the impact of serious incidents than adults. It is normal for children to react emotionally such an incident.
Children’s responses to incidents will differ depending on the child’s age, developmental level, cognitive ability, and resilience. Some children may find a particular incident distressing and difficult to process, whereas other children may experience the same incident and be initially upset but then move forward with support. If your child is distressed by an incident, their responses may involve recurrent thoughts or recall about the event, feeling uneasy or anxious, mood changes, restlessness, feeling tired and disturbed sleep.
How can I support my child?
Talk about the incident
Young children are dependent on adults for safety and care. Following any unexpected event, children require support and reassurance from their caregivers. It is important that children are able to talk about the incident if they have directly witnessed or experienced it as this can help them make sense of the situation.
When communicating with your child it is best to use age-appropriate language, with only the details they need to know. It is not beneficial to provide excessive details about the incident as this can be overwhelming and stressful. It is important to emphasise that they are safe and help them to label their feelings and validate them.
Time together and play
It can be grounding for children to play together with a trusted caregiver and engage in some activities that they enjoy. Play is helpful in that it can help children manage stress while also providing a much-needed break from daily stresses or reminders.
Know when to seek help:
If your child continues to experience significant emotionality (anxiety, fear, sadness, aggression), and this is impairing their ability to behave as they normally would, it is important to seek further support from a health professional.
Children are generally very resilient. As with any change or unexpected event in your child’s life, most reactions will reduce over time with support from families. However, as time goes on and your situation stabilises, if you still have concerns for your child, it may be possible that your child is still experiencing significant distress and may require additional support.
If your child requires specific support interventions you can:
1. Go to a General Practitioner (GP)
2. Ask the GP for a Mental Health Care Plan
3. Through a Mental Health Care Plan your child will be able to access psychological appointments which are free (or at minimal cost) after the Medicare rebate.
4. After your first 6 sessions you may need to return to your GP for an assessment of whether ongoing treatment is recommended and to extend your Mental Health Care Plan if needed.
How can G8 Education support your child?
If your child has been impacted by a serious incident, please talk to your Centre Manager so our team can be sensitive to the needs of your child and your family.