In light of the recent uproar in the media of little Amy-Leigh’s abduction as well as the current ongoing trial of the alleged rape incident occurring at a Dros restaurant in Silverton, we as a child protection organisation would like to make a definite stand against these acts and express our dismay regarding these two horrible incidents and all the other incidents of this nature. These kind of unfortunate incidents give a clear indication that children are a vulnerable group that easily gets victimised and needs extra protection from those aiming to damage the lives of our young ones.
One of the first feelings that parents and families experience after their children went through some trauma, is guilt. Yes, it is natural to feel that way, but guilt brings about other negative feelings towards yourself such as worthlessness and feeling as though you failed your child. Our feelings always impact on how we act – in other words, negative feelings cause negative actions. Therefore, feelings of guilt might cause you to act in a negative way, without you even realising it. This is where self-forgiveness is really vital so that your thoughts and feelings about yourself can change which will bring about positive reactions. Never underestimate the sensitivity of your child and how they are able to sense your feelings of incompetence. This will then make them feel insecure and that nobody can take control over their situation and pick up the pieces on their behalf. Therefore, is you as a parent need to speak to a professional in order to rebuild yourself, do it.
After trauma, children either react out heavily or suppress their true feelings. Children are different and will react differently to their trauma. It is therefore important to be present – physically and emotionally. Provide even more nurturance than before. Children are able to process their trauma a lot better when having a strong support system. If you decide to take your child to see a therapist, do not expect the therapist to fix your child on their own, but rather commit to play “co-therapist” and work together with the therapist so that your child has support throughout. Introverted children tend to bottle up their feelings after trauma and we have seen how some children appear emotionally weak due to a lack of support at home.
Even though children go through tough times following trauma, practicing discipline towards them should never be avoided as it provides them with structure as it something they are in great need of after trauma. Children also thrive on predictability and it is therefore important to try to, after a traumatic event, to communicate effectively to them and inform them of any plans considering them. Give your child a voice to articulate their needs to you and assure them of your commitment to try to adhere to it. For those children experiencing nightmares, allow your child to tell the traumatic event over and over to you so that the memory could form part of their consciousness, which can decrease nightmares.
Even though I mentioned that you need to forgive yourself and move on after a traumatic event happening to your child, we acknowledge that you will do your best to survive this ordeal. We further acknowledge that you as a parent are also a victim when your child gets targeted and that you have not done anything wrong. Despite this, we have found that when parents apologise to their child for what has happened to them, it brings about healing for both. This does not mean that you admit doing something wrong, but that you apologise to your child for what has happened to them.
Sometimes it will be needed to engage in family therapy as siblings and other family members might also experience a great deal of fear and uncertainty regarding their future safety. This is an ideal opportunity to work out a safety plan as a family where you decide on the best possible ways to protect one another and yourself. Children need to see that they are not alone.
Lastly, even though your child and family you might struggle to deal with the trauma form whatever incident involving your child, it is important to try really hard to get back to your daily routines as quickly as possible so that you do not give the trauma the upper hand and allow it to control your life. This will also help your child and family to find your rhythm again. Survivor thoughts and feelings will lead to survivor actions.
If you need assistance with trauma relating to your child, contact us at 012 460 9236 so that we could provide your child and family with debriefing support.
Written by Yolandi Singleton (Supervisor: Assessments and Therapy Unit)