When a child survives a traumatic event, it can change their life forever. The pain can make it difficult for them to sleep, focus on daily tasks, connect, and trust.
They’re often ridden with guilt, playing the scenarios over and over in their head, trying to figure out what they could have done differently.
“It’s not within their control, but as a young child they don’t understand that these things are totally out of their control,” said Linda Cordisco-Steele, a Child Forensic Interview Specialist with the National Child Advocacy Center.
She says the only way for the child to move forward and move past the tragedy is to face the pain head on.
“Don’t encourage them to just totally ignore it or put it behind them. It’s just going to build up. It’s too dramatic of an experience in one’s life to just go on as though nothing has happened,” said Cordisco-Steele.
For children the healing process can often be like a rollercoaster. They’ll seem happy and playful like any other child, before once again becoming overwhelmed by painful memories.
“I believe kids are very resilient. But they can’t recover in the sense that they can go back to who they were before anything happened,” said Cordisco-Steele. “There’s of course going to be an impact from this kind of experience. It doesn’t mean, though, despite how dramatic and awful it is, they cannot go forward.”
Moving forward takes time, but with someone to talk to and care, they can often attain a sense of healing. That may take years of rehashing the events and the feelings the child is experiencing.
The National Child Advocacy Center offers resources for children who have suffered from abuse. Local police departments and District Attorney’s offices often have victim advocates as well.