If you, an adult, are hit by another car, you are likely to experience a range of emotions. This is true whether you are injured. You might find yourself reliving the moment of the crash for a few days or even weeks and could be nervous about driving for a while. You have suddenly been confronted with mortality and are unsure of what to make of it.
Children tend to have emotional reactions as well, but these feelings can be quite deep and intense compared to those of adults. In some cases, they even rise to the level of PTSD (they can for adults, too). It is important to check on the emotional health of your child after a car accident.
Understand the symptoms
The symptoms of a traumatic reaction after a car crash can persist for months. They tend to include appetite and weight changes, irritability, avoidance of socializing, academic problems, difficulty sleeping and anger. A younger child may become more clingy, while an older child, such as a teenager, might get into more trouble at school.
Have a talk or accident reconstruction after about a week
Children who get to talk about their feelings and fears a week after the crash tend to do better than those who are left to their own devices. Without this intervention, children are at higher risk for depressive episodes as long as six months after the accident. Just one intervention can do wonders for a younger child, but teenagers tend to require more interventions.
Seeing the situation from your child’s perspective
It can be hard at first for adults to understand why some children react so intensely for months after a car accident. Just imagine, though: You are on your way home after a fun day at the park. All of the sudden, there is a huge crashing sound, you are thrown forward, everyone in your car is shouting and crying and maybe your dad is bleeding or not moving. A strange person runs to you from another car, and there are raised voices and fighting. The police come and ask questions. You go to the hospital, there are bright lights, more questions, more confusion. Later, there are worries about insurance, medical bills and paying for repairs or a new car.
Add injuries, whether the child’s or a loved one’s, to the situation, and things can get even more complex.