Children are almost always livewires – they are just so full of energy. Their chirpiness level may come down if they are physically sick, but comes back when they become well and normal. But, have you ever noticed a sudden change in your little one’s behavior that has gone prolonged? Has the talkative and cheerful kid suddenly become so silent? Have they stopped playing with their regular set of friends? Are they throwing a fit to go to school/tuition/extracurricular classes?
Most children do not feel the need to tell their parents if and when anything happens to them. It may be due to the fear of judgment or punishment or just a case of plain misunderstanding. Even with parents who are frank and friendly, kids hesitate to share something that happened out of the ordinary or share their most intimate thoughts and feelings. Here, we jot down some changes you can notice to understand if your child has undergone any traumatic incident, which they have not yet opened up to you about. Kindly note that trauma can stem from (but is not limited to) any of these :
- Physical, psychological, emotional, and/or sexual abuse
- Isolation at home or school/classes
- An accident/physical injury
- A sudden physical illness or condition of self/others in the close circle
- A scary incident they underwent or witnessed
- A major change in environment like shifting of house, changing school, changing city
- A major distressing public event like war, famine, fires, earthquake, etc
- A loss of a dear one (family/friends/pets)
- Being bullied/blackmailed.
1. Change In Their Usual Behaviour:
Your child may be usually very outgoing and shines in class, and co-curricular activities; but suddenly their enthusiasm to engage in those things takes a dip. Some kids are naturally silent and introverted. But then suddenly, they will start behaving in an extroverted way. A child who has been so disobedient and loud may suddenly turn very docile and quiet. So these changes will be totally opposite to their true nature.
2. Change In Food Intake/Sleep:
Kids who have undergone something traumatic show changes in their food intake and sleep cycles. Both may get very erratic. Binge-eating, eating very less, or skipping meals may happen. Along with disturbed sleep, oversleeping, or difficulty falling asleep, some may even experience nightmares and bed-wetting during their sleep.
3. No Interest In Academics/Hobbies:
A traumatized child may lose interest in studying. The interest drop may also be in something that they were very much engaged in before like music, skating, art, video games, reading books, etc. They may also not be able to concentrate on anything like before.
4. Not Interested To Make/Be With Friends:
Trauma can make kids lose interest in fellow beings. They would have had a lot of friends earlier, but they will stop talking and hanging out with those kids. They will not be socially active like before. They may start making up imaginary friends(if the child is too young) to cope with trauma. Or they may also fixate on one or two friends and cling to them.
5. Physical Tics:
Kids who have post-trauma symptoms tend to bite their nails, pull their hair, bite their lips raw, peel their skin, or do some form of self-harm, which may not be very evident at first. Look for signs when they are anxious/upset about something.
6. Crying Often/Anger Issues:
Due to the reason that they haven’t opened up about what caused them intense stress, their emotions will fluctuate a lot. They may get visibly upset so much that their instant reaction is to cry or show anger in extreme ways.
7. Jumpiness/Heightened Fear:
Some children who have experienced intense trauma will get physically averse to touch, certain noises, or so that may remind them of the traumatic incident. They will exhibit signs of fear and jumpiness when someone or something invades their physical space or triggers the traumatic memory.
8. Trouble With Memory:
Another coping mechanism for kids who have endured trauma is to block out that particular memory of it. It may be the hour/day, or that whole week leading up to it, or even that complete month and year. So their memory gets messed up and they will have trouble recollecting some memories that happened close to that traumatic event in their lives.
To not confront what they are going through, some children will develop addictions as coping mechanisms. It can be unhealthy but harmless, like addiction to sweets/snacks, video game addiction, or listening to music. The addictions may also turn to darker stuff like watching/reading about death, substance abuse, etc., which must be intervened immediately.
They may start feeling like the odd one out and to avoid that, they would start going out of their way to make others like them. This includes people pleasing to the point that they cannot say ‘No’ to anyone. They may develop a dark sense of humor or sarcasm to impress their peers and stay close to them. They will give in easily to peer pressure, just to fit in and may get involved in anything their friends are up to.
These are just a few signs. So, when you notice these changes all of a sudden and it stays that way for a longer time, then you make a point to talk to them. Tell them that you can see some major changes in them and ask them if they could share what caused this and offer your unconditional love and support. With your help, they can come out of their trauma and rebuild themselves.
Stay aware and happy parenting.