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Children often suffer psychological trauma after a car accident

A car accident can be traumatic for anyone in California, but children may be even more susceptible to trauma from a crash than their parents. According to Psych Central, there are some specific behaviors different age groups may develop in response to this trauma.

  • 5 years and under: regression to earlier behaviors such as thumb-sucking or bed wetting, clinginess, anxiety over separation or other fears
  • 6- to 11-year-olds: nightmares or other sleep issues, difficulties at school, disruptive behaviors, withdrawal, loss of focus, anxiety-related physical complaints such as headaches or stomach aches
  • 12- to 17-year-olds: nightmares or other sleep issues, risk-taking or other unusual behaviors, problems at school, issues with peers, anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts

Integrated Family Community Services notes that children may not even be aware that they are having problems after the crash. So, it falls to the parents to identify symptoms, connect them to the accident and find ways to help. Experts recommend that once physical issues from the accident have been addressed, the first thing a parent should do is get back to a routine, particularly if the child is younger. Anything children say may reveal difficulties dealing with the aftermath, so parents should listen closely for clues.

Extreme symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety or nightmares may indicate that a child has developed post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, a child may begin panicking when getting in the car. Although a parent should reassure the child that this response is normal, it may also be a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional to help the child cope.

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