A.Overview: Children's reaction to a trauma will involve not only the impact of the catastrophe on their lives (what they saw, heard, felt, smelled and so on) but a sense of crisis over their parents' reactions. The presence or absence of parents and terror over a frightening situation - one that has rendered the children's parents helpless - all contribute to children's distress.
"A central theme thate merges from exploration of children's responses to disaster situations is that, in a way that is not generally appreciated, they, too, experience fear of death and destruction... Particularly influential in the young child's experience are the presence or absence of his parents and the terror of overwhelming physical forces that seem to render the 'all powerful' adult parents frightened and powerless."
B. Birth - 2 Years
1.High anxiety levels manifested in crying, biting, throwing objects, thumbsucking, and agitated behavior.
2. While it is unlikely that the child will retain a strong mental memory of the trauma, the child may retain a physical memory.
C. 2 Years - 6 Years: pre-school
1.Children may not have the same level of denial as do adults so they take in the catastrophe more swiftly.
2. Engage in reenactments and play about the traumatic event - sometimes to the distress of parents or adults.
3. Anxious attachment behaviors are exhibited toward caretakers - may include physically holding onto adults; not wanting to sleep alone; wanting to be held.
4. May become mute, withdrawn and still.
5. Manifest a short"sadness span" but repeat sadness periods over and over.
6. Regress in physical independence - may refuse to dress, feed, or wash self; may forget toilet training; may wet bed.
7. Sleep disturbances,particularly nightmares are common.
8. Any change in daily routines may be seen as threatening.
9. Does not understand death (no one does) and its permanency reaction to death may include anger and a feeling of rejection.
D. 6 Years -10 Years: School age
1.Play continues to be the primary method of expression. Often art, drawing, dance or music may be integrated in the play.
2. The sense of loss and injury may intrude on the concentration of the child in school.
3. Radical changes in behavior may result - the normally quiet child becoming active and noisy; the normally active child becoming lethargic.
4. May fantasize about event with "savior" ending.
5. Withdrawal of trust from adults.
6. May become tentative ingrowth towards independence.
7. Internal body dysfunctions are normal - headaches, stomach aches, dizziness.
8. May have increasing difficulty in controlling their behaviors.
9. May regress to previous development stages.
E. 10 Years - 12 Years: girls 'pre-adolescence
12 Years - 14 Years: boys' pre-adolescence
1.Become more childlike in attitude.
2. May be very angry at unfairness of the disaster.
3. May manifest euphoria and excitement at survival.
4. See symbolic meaning to pre-disaster events as omens and assign symbolic reasons to post-disaster survival.
5. Often suppress thoughts and feelings to avoid confronting the disaster.
6. May be self-judgmental about their own behavior.
7. May have a sense of foreshortened future.
8. May have a sense of meaninglessness or purposelessness of existence.
9. Psychosomatic illnesses may manifest themselves.
F. 12/14 Years - 18 Years
1.Adolescents most resemble adult post-traumatic stress reactions.
2. May feel anger, shame, betrayal and act out their frustration through rebellious acts in school.
3. May opt to move into adult world as soon as possible - to get away from the sense of disaster and to establish control over their environment.
4. Judgmental about their own behavior and the behavior of others.
5. Their survival may contribute to the sense of immortality.
6. They are often suspicious and guarded in their reaction to others in the aftermath.
7. Eating and sleeping disorders are common.
8. Depression and anomie may plague the adolescent.
9. May lose impulsec ontrol and become a threat to other family members and him/herself.
10. Alcohol and drug abuse may be a problem as a result of the perceived meaninglessness of the world.
11. Fear that the disasteror tragedy will repeat itself adds to the sense of a foreshortened future.
12. May have psychosomatic illnesses.