Maltby Center urges parents and carers to let children speak out after a traumatic event


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People of all ages in the Kingston community were shaken last week by the sudden death of a 10-year-old girl when she was struck by a vehicle outside her school.


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The incident happened just after Mother Teresa Catholic School was released for the day at 3.35pm.

This prompted Maltby Center therapists to send out a leaflet titled “Talking to your child about witnessing a traumatic event.” The leaflet provides advice and suggestions for parents and caregivers on how best to support children who may have witnessed trauma.

“When you talk about how people react, it’s quite difficult because everyone will have an individual reaction and it can be based on many factors,” Deborah Hendy, associate director of clinical programs and services, said on Tuesday. at the Maltby Centre.

These factors include the person’s age, whether there have been previous experiences with trauma, their developmental age, and how a person felt before the accident.

“You could have two siblings in the same family going through the same event and each will react differently and have different needs after the event,” Hendy said. “Emotional baseline or people’s responsiveness, personality traits, all of those things can play into how someone might be impacted and to what extent.”

When talking to a child about a traumatic event, the Maltby Center suggests the following:

  • Follow their lead by giving them space and time to talk about the event. Allow them to express all their emotions.
  • Children may have nightmares and feel unsafe in their world. Give him lots of comfort and cuddles, as he may need to be closer to you than usual.
  • Preoccupation with the event is normal and can show up during their playtime. “That’s how young children try to make sense of the event.”
  • They may ask the same questions over and over to try to make sense of what they have seen or experienced.
  • Keep adult conversations out of earshot.
  • “Children will follow your emotional lead. If they see that you are calm, it will help them feel safe.
  • “Your attention, love and support will make a big difference.”


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Allowing children to experience and express their emotions is one of the first steps in dealing with trauma, but Hendy said the parent and caregiver must also acknowledge how they feel about the event and how. they feel comfortable talking about it.

“A lot of times when we see our children in distress, we want to wipe away our tears and make them feel better as soon as possible,” Hendy said. “But I think this tip sheet suggests allowing some room for emotion and the expression of emotion, whatever it is or how it may be expressed.”

Hendy said these emotions can also be expressed behaviorally.

“So reaching out and providing space for discussion is really helpful,” Hendy said. “Just ask…ask if they’re okay, ask if there’s anything they’d like to discuss.” Even letting the child explore a bit of what their experience might be.

“Some children may want answers to very direct questions about what happened. They might ask things that, as adults, we learned we wouldn’t ask or say. Seeing it through a child’s eyes are often very different from our point of view.

In order to figure out what happened, the Maltby Center said children often ask about it again and again. Hendy urged patience when this happens, as parents and carers are a place of comfort and safety for the child.

“A lot of these questions are very normal and we can give them space and we can answer them as best we can,” Hendy said. “You don’t have to go into too much detail, but simply providing an answer is often enough to meet a child’s needs so they don’t engage in magical thinking or create not his own answers to his questions.”


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The risk is that if a child creates their own answers, they may jump to conclusions that may be inaccurate or even blame themselves.

If the traumatic event translates into their imaginary play, that’s fine, too, Hendy said.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” Hendy said. “It’s part of the child’s ability to process the event, think about the event and resolve it on their own.

“Make space for it, then allow discussion around (the trauma), and invite it, when it comes up.”

Hendy insisted that the child’s daily schedule continue as much as possible and realistic. If they can, go play sports, have dinner at the same time, go to bed at the same time.

“It’s in this structure that kids will feel safe and cohesive,” Hendy said. “It’s always based on how your child is doing, but as much as possible, stick to the schedule.”

Although children may need professional help if they continue to actively struggle with the event weeks later, the final piece of advice was also the main driver behind the delivery of the leaflet. Hendy said that although professionals, including those at the Maltby Centre, are available, at the end of the day it is the parents and caregivers who know their children best.

“As a parent, there’s a lot you can do to help your child,” Hendy said after noting that parents can “provide that reassurance that they’re safe. That the experience is very upsetting, but there is hope, and in time, we can all get through this.

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