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Mishawaka psychotherapist talks about how to help your child cope with traumatic events

Dr. Erin Leonard // WSBT 22 photo

Traumatic events can have different effects on everyone.

Some people cope with it and others have trouble.

A Mishawaka psychotherapist is offering advice on how to help your child cope or how to talk about tough situations.

Dr. Erin Leonard is advising parents to remain sensitive and empathetic toward their child.

Leonard told WSBT 22 that with a traumatic event like the fatal accident involving the children that happened the other day, it’s important to know how to talk with your child and help them cope with any stress surrounding the incident.

Leonard is a local psychotherapist. She helps children with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety on a regular basis.

With an event as tragic as the deadly bus stop crash this past Tuesday, she says it’s important to see how it’s affecting your child.

“The parent should just ask their child did you hear anything at school today? If the child says yes, you know anything that bothered you. If the child says yes, then the parent asks can you tell me about it what did you hear? What is bothering you what is scary?” said Leonard.

Leonard says this allows the child to guide the conversation so parents aren’t introducing anything new that may scare the child.

If your child was involved in a traumatic situation, it’s important to remain patient and understanding.

“Let them know that you’re there to listen and you’re there to help them with their feelings about this. Initially kids sort of go into shock mode and so they might seem a little detached or unemotional,” said Leonard.

There are some warning signs the events may be affecting your child more than normal.

They may actually be dealing with trauma or PTSD.

Some of those warning signs are frequent nightmares, loss of appetite, a sort of withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed. These warning signs can be delayed, but that doesn't mean they still aren't dealing with trauma.

“The signs of traumatization don’t happen right away and that’s hard for me. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but a lot of the times its weeks after the experience or incident because of that tendency for human beings to disassociate during the trauma," said Leonard.

Leonard says it's very important to think about getting your child professional help if these symptoms persist.

“For a very sensitive and emphatic person, that material can stick with them for a very long time. It’s really hard to digest and the best thing is to be able to talk about it,” said Leonard.

Again, watch out for the warning signs of PTSD in your kids like nightmares, loss of appetite and withdrawal from social situations. If you notice these signs, it may be time to get your child help.

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