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Helping Kids Deal with Trauma

Helping Kids Deal with Trauma

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Debbie Dujanovic reporting Three shocking events, hundreds of Salt Lake children emotionally devastated: A bus crash, a child accidentally strangled, and a schoolyard flasher.

How do children cope when they're a witness to trauma?

Our children as victims and witnesses. Last week, elementary kids taunted and flashed by a strange man during recess,

Last night, A medical chopper lands in a neighborhood shaken by a freak accident. An eight year old gets tangled up in a scarf on a backyard clothesline, and chokes. She's clinging to life.

Yesterday afternoon, dozens of children witnessed a school bus hitting a pedestrian and dragging him through a Midvale intersection. The deadly crash shook the adults who saw it.

Shane Westberg/Bus Accident Witness "It was emotional, I don't know how to describe it, it's something I’ll remember the rest of my life"

Just imagine how the children feel. How can we help our kids cope when life's trauma comes calling?

Dr. Susan Chilton is in charge of counseling for the Jordan School District.

Dr. Susan Chilton/Jordan School District: "The first thing they will do is look at a parent to see how we respond, so if we're calm and reassure them that they're safe, that's the first step."

At Primary Children's Medical Center, Social Workers counsel kids everyday. Amy Oxman suggests parents don't barrage kids with questions, instead gently approach a conversation.

Amy Oxman/Primary Children's Medical Center: "You might ask the child, tell me what happened, what you saw, tell me about your feelings .. Then tell me more."

Both experts say it's okay for a parent to correct wrong information, but avoid giving kids too many details.

It's also important for a child to maintain a normal routine, for example, don't pull them out of school if they really want to go.

And ignoring the situation is not the answer.

Dr. Susan Chilton/Jordan School District: "I think the biggest mistake is if we don't talk about it, it won't affect them."

"What if your child just doesn't want to talk about it .. Experts say that's okay too .,, whether they open up or not, there are some warning signs parents can look out for.

When a child witnesses something shocking .. parents should watch for lingering behavior changes. Amy Oxman/Primary Children's Medical Center: "Maybe the child is having nightmares or more nightmares, or not sleeping through the night, or they're not wanting to sleep in their bedroom or having more anger outbursts." Small children should emotionally move on within a day or two ... 6 to 9 year olds might be affected for a week. Teens might have a longer reaction to trauma

But more than 2-weeks -- at any age -- doctors say you should seek professional counseling.

Fortunately most children will get through an emotional crisis with help from their parents ... talking, reassuring, and reaching out, with a loving hand during tough times.

Also tonight, an update on that 8-year old who accidentally strangled herself last night -- tonight she's been upgraded to serious condition.

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