Scared or Scarred? Signs of Trauma

Watching a nation face COVID-19 can be confusing, stressful and sometimes frightening for adults and children.

Every child’s situation is different, but could some be traumatized?

“There is definitely multi-directional trauma exposure to kids coming from a number of places,” said Monica Arora, MD, CHI Health child and adolescent psychiatrist.

You don’t have to go through a traumatic event, such as war, to experience trauma. It can just be an overwhelming or frightening experience that is out of our control.

We are in an unusual and uncertain time. The stress and anxiety children are experiencing could be from a number of different factors.

  • Separation from loved ones who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 and/or fear that they may catch the disease
  • School closures thrust many kids into taking care of younger siblings
  • Loss of the structure school provides, including important daily interaction with teachers and friends
  • Job loss in the family, leaving children worried about basic essentials – food, clothing and housing

Children’s reactions from a traumatic event vary depending on age. See “Signs of Emotional Struggle” in our other article.

Children may have difficulty sleeping through the night. Some may be filled with worry about family and friends. Teens may say they’re fine when in reality they are suffering from anxiety.

How to Support Children

It’s important to reiterate safety and validate their feelings. “Reassure children they are okay and safe. Provide age-appropriate, simple and honest answers,” said Dr. Arora.

Teenagers often hide their emotions. Be a resource for those who wish to talk. Remember, kids are tuned into grown-up’s reactions. To best support your child, you must take care of yourself too.