The following signs may suggest that your toddler is feeling stressed…
Many families have experienced traumatic events, ranging from car accidents and a death in the family to a hijacking. Joanna Kleovoulou, clinical psychologist and founder of the Joburg-based PsychMatters Centre, says, while after-effects may be easier to see in adults, spotting the warning signs of anxiety in children can be tricky, as children under
the age of five may only present with a few of the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms experienced by adults. Joanna advises looking out for the following signs if you suspect your toddler may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder:
- A fear of strangers or being separated from a parent.
- Sleeping problems or nightmares.
- Repeatedly mentioning certain words or symbols that may or may not be related to the trauma.
- Re-enacting themes of the trauma they witnessed or experienced.
- Regression in development skills they’ve learned, such as toilet training or going back to older habits such
as thumb-sucking or using a dummy.
- Showing signs of fussy, irritable or aggressive behaviour.
- In older children, their academic performance may drop and they might lose interest in extracurricular activities as well as being around peers.
How you can help
Children under 3:
Joanna says structure, predictability and affection are key to helping them cope. So avoid any unnecessary separations and provide lots of hugs and soothing activities such as painting, playdough, singing and swinging to recreate a calm environment.
Joanna suggests re-establishing stability by listening to your child and hearing their concerns. Help
your child identify feelings with words and not by acting out. Instead of saying ‘Stop being a cry baby and go to bed!’ rather say, ‘Ah, you’re really scared of the dark now. Don’t worry; it’s going to be okay, Mommy and Daddy are right here.’ Following routines and setting limits with consistency and gentleness will give your child a sense of safety.
Seek professional help if the anxiety doesn’t improve.
Did you know?
The Good Childhood survey conducted in the UK last year ranked South Africa 13th out of 15 countries for unhappy children, with only England and South Korea being worse off.
COMPILED BY NOLWAZI DHLAMINI PHOTOS: FOTOLIA.COM