Psychologist’s advice, when a child shows...
Anger can appear spontaneously and for no apparent reason. Children may cry, slam doors or answer questions in a rude manner. Usually, they feel guilt and regret over these flashes of anger. It may be indicative of their inability to cope with their own feelings. This is a crucial time when help is very much needed.
What should adults do?
Parents may find it particularly difficult to deal with such children. However, they should understand that such behaviour is a normal reaction to stress and trauma. It may also be a reaction to specific reminders of loss. For example, a child who has lost a close friend may become anxious when other children are speaking about their friendships.
Try not to scold your child in these moments. The child is angry not because he/she does not love you, or is ill mannered and rude. The anger is a manifestation of trauma. If you manage to control your own temper, the child will be grateful; as he/she will feel that you understand his feelings and are trying to help him cope with them.
You can also try to help your children understand why they behave aggressively or violently in a given situation. You should talk face to face about things that disturb them and can cause anger. Try to monitor these manifestations and carefully suggest how children can control their behaviour. If the aggressive behaviour continues, the child may require specialized assistance.
Some younger children may become aggressive or even violent while playing. They fight, bite, push and offend other children and adults. Cruelty may start with feelings of anxiety and excitement, which may gradually increase. The child may start to behave more defiantly, to disobey and respond aggressively when asked to calm down. Sometimes during play, he/she repeats experiences, attempting to relieve pain or change an outcome from the past. For example, a child can simulate a funeral, torture pets or kill insects. Try to be understanding. Cruelty in this case is not an indication of a lack of morals or compassion.
Moreover, it is important to remember that many children have experienced trauma that exceeds by far their ability to understand and cope. With no better way to overcome bad memories and a sense of helplessness, the child tries to master his feelings by turning fear and anxiety into cruelty. It helps the child feel more confident and bolder.
What should adults do?
Encourage your child to play and exercise, to help him vent his feelings. Try to establish trusting relationships. Do not abuse the child, but also do not tolerate cruelty. You can say ‘I was upset when you insulted me.’ Try to be consistent in your behaviour. Try to help your child to put into words what he feels. For example, by telling him, ‘I see that you're angry. This is normal, after what we have gone through. For some time you will feel upset when you think of the past.
Choose your words carefully. Sometimes it is easy to stick a label on an unruly child. However, offensive words can be remembered all the life. They will only deepen the trauma and delay the recovery process. It is important to acknowledge that the child is motivated not by cruelty or stupidity but by traumatic events, loss and misfortune, and that many of the problems can be solved with the provision of required assistance.
Children may often wake up to the slightest of noises, and be unable to fall asleep again. Their sleep is light and full of nightmares, and they wake up feeling tired. A sleepy child is not focused in class, and he/she is irritable.
What should adults do?
In periods of anxiety you can temporarily sleep with the child. Let him/her know that you are near and that he/she is safe. The child may calm down simply by your hugging him/her. At a later point, you can plan together with the child when he/she will go back to sleeping alone. To ease the withdrawal, you can sit next to the bed until he/she falls asleep. Ask your child to tell you if he/she feels afraid again.
Detachment occurs as a defensive reaction from intrusive memories. It manifests itself as attempts to avoid talking, thinking and remembering traumatic events, and avoiding everything, which reminds of the past including associated places and people with it. The child’s emotionality decreases to the point of numbness, as a defence from stress reactions to everything that evokes memories of traumatic events. The sense of being separated from other people may lead to social isolation. The child may also lose interest in his/her usual and favourite activities.
Some children may be withdrawn or quiet. They do not cause problems. However, these children may feel heavy stress or deep sadness. It is important to identify such cases and help them to the same extent we help aggressive children. They may need assistance in returning to their old behaviour in the classroom and with friends. They need comfort and encouragement.
What should adults do?
You can talk face to face about things that disturb the child and that remind him/her of what has happened. If you ignore the child's condition, he/she may grow up isolated, less successful in education, and with deteriorated social skills.
Perhaps your child has lost a close friend, or his friendships have changed. It is important to help to find new friends or renew old friendship. Various types of normal social activities can be very important for traumatized children. They often feel lonely, and different from other people. Think about how to help your child to care for other children and adults. Plan a nice get-together; a trip to visit the child’s friends, for example, if they do not live nearby. Do not worry if things that child loved to do before are not as much fun now.
The child may have recurring memories of traumatic events; thoughts and images appearing both when asleep and awake. Such memories negatively affect the child’s emotional and physical well-being. Some children may behave as if their worst experiences are being repeated again and again. This reaction is called a ‘flashback’ – it is a recurring mental image, a living memory of the traumatic experience.
What should adults do?
Help your child understand what reminds him/her about things that have happened (people, places, smells, sounds, times of day) and clarify the difference between what happened and what he/she now recalls about the past. Reassure your child that he/she is safe as long as is necessary.
Protect the child from media news about the event, as it can cause fear that everything will happen again. Answer all questions calmly. Tell him/her what is happening now and what will you do to protect him/her from what he fears. Avoid frightening details and clarify any unclear information that may be disquieting your child.
Children who have experienced something terrible may become afraid of things that did not scare them before. Usually kids believe that their parents are all-powerful and can protect them from misfortune. This belief helps them feel safe. But after traumatic events, this faith is not as firm as it was before. It is frightening for the child to live without this assurance, as many events can evoke bad memories – for example rain, ambulances, loud noises, or frightening facial expressions. You are not to blame for this, it is the child’s experiences that are to blame.
What should adults do?
When a child is scared, tell him/her how you will protect him/her. If something reminds the child of the past and makes him/her afraid, help him/her understand the difference between what is happening now and what happened at the time of the event. If the child talks about monsters, help drive them away, saying: ‘Go away monster! Do not scare my child. Go away!’ Remember that the child is too young to know if you really protected him/her, but you can remind yourself of all that you have been able to do for your child.
Sometimes children are afraid that something will happen to their parents. You may have such fears too. It is a natural reaction for those who have survived a traumatic event. If you were separated from your child during a disaster, his/her fears may be even stronger. Remind your child that he/she and you are no longer in danger.
If the danger still exists, tell the child that you are doing everything possible to protect him/her. Plan for who will look after the child in case something really should happen to you. It will help you worry less. Do something positive together, to distract yourselves from thoughts of anxiety.
Thank you for Good Words!
We will feel in balloons with your good words. More good words – more balloons. Please, invite your friends to take part in the campaign to give children more positive emotions.
Further assistance: contact information
The situation in the country, traumas, fears, painful loss or misunderstanding with classmates, friends or parents could influence on the condition and behaviour of your child.
If you no longer understand your child, or you do not know how to improve your relationship, the first step is to call to Child help hotline.
Experts are always ready to listen, support, help and give advice!
First step: call. A psychologist or social worker will listen to you to understand what kind of advice you require: informational, legal or psychological.
Second step: speak. Your discussion with the expert is 100% confidential. Depending on your problem you will receive advice on how to relate to your child and what words to use in a given situation.
Third step: achieve a positive result. The hotline experts will be waiting for feedback to make sure that the problem was successfully solved. If one consultation is not enough, the experts will advise you to apply to a special institution or will propose a personal meeting.
about the project
The all-Ukrainian campaign “Words Help” and this websitehave been initiated by UNICEF Ukraine Children’s Fund. We aim to support children who face traumatic life circumstances. Our website will help adults to interact with such children and say them the right words. Sometimes the only thing that will help is positive words. This is the reason why we have collected words of support on this website. These words will help children look to the future with hope again.
Here you can watch videos with stories about the bear, who will explain methods for coping with stress. If you notice that a child shows signs of stress, try to use the power of words and knowledge. You also can contact experts on our hotline if needed.
More kind words – more happy children.
of collected air
“Hi, my dear friend. I am left-handed. When I was in 1st grade I felt a deep fear as I was forced to write with my right hand. It was really stressful as I couldn’t understand what made me different from other children, why everybody was paying so much attention to me. My parents supported me and I’m very thankful to them, because I was able to stand my ground and stay left-handed. Believe in yourself, believe close people who support you, and this belief will give you inspiration. If you are different, not like others, it is not bad, it could even be a good thing, as you show that you are a small Ukrainian who will grow and become a person who deserves to live in Ukraine. Our similarity is in our distinctions. We speak with different people regardless of the color of their eyes, the language they speak or the hand they write with. Let’s support each other in spite of our distinctions and different points of views!”
“Hi! When I was in 7th grade I had an interesting experience. Once I had to take part in a school play. It was a holiday concert. During our rehearsal graduates were standing behind the scenes. They were watching our rehearsal, laughing at us and criticizing our play, saying it would be better not to perform at all. I was totally confused and disappointed, so I refused to perform. I admitted that I was a bad actor. I would have never performed again if not for my teacher Svitlana Dmitrievna, who supported me and assured me that I was a good actor. She found those important words, telling me “You can do it, don’t ever pay attention to the bad words you hear from people. Just do it.” After hearing these words I had the courage to perform. I went on stage, I felt the support of the audience, it was as if I could have stayed on that stage forever J It is important to hear motivational words and to be assured that everything depends on you only, and that you can achieve anything in spite of the things happening around you. You are the one who can make yourself happy. Other can just help a little bit. Be certain that everything depends on you only. It is the most important thing. Believe in yourself and your talents.”
“My darling girl, once I also had to change school. When the Chernobyl disaster happened, I was in 3rd grade. My parents urgently sent me from Kiev to Poltava, where my grandma lived. It was May and the end of school year. It is always frightening to come to a place where you do not know anybody. But I believed that children in new school would be kind for me. And they really were. You should also believe! In Ukraine live people who are kind and who care. Just imagine how many new friends you will find. When the conflict will be over and you will return home, you will have a chance to visit your new friends. Due to this conflict, I also found new friends from the east. During the summer a family from Lysychansk lived in my house. In Kiev their daughter was born and I became her godmother. I’m sure that you will also find new friends for life!”
“My dear friend! If destiny gives you challenges, you will also find the energy and people to help you overcome them. The main thing is to believe in yourself, and not refuse people’s help. There are many people who are ready to help, believe me! The father of my cousins who lived in Russia had a serious disease and their mother had to spend all her time in the hospital near him. So we proposed to take the children to Ukraine for some time. Kolya and little Tanecka were separated from their parents and had to move to Ukraine to our family and go to a new school. It was stressful for Kolya. He was afraid to answer during classes as he thought that his new classmates were laughing at him. He refused to participate in our friendly discussions and once he refused to go to school at all. But those feelings had nothing in common with reality. The reason for how he felt was just fear. I spoke a lot with him, friends helped me, and slowly he returned to his normal self. Then he made friends with his classmates, became one of the best students and started to speak Ukrainian quite well. And when it was time to go back to he parents he begged them to move to Ukraine and let him stay at the new school. We still remember this interesting period. So if you are in the same situation please be kind, smiling and open for help!”
When I was 17 I got a job in a radio. I have not planned to be a journalist, as it was just a dream. I have graduated from the technical college of mechanics and engineering in Dnipropetrovsk and had to fiddle with microchips and assembling computers. Once I heard that radio station needed talented people. However, I had problems with diction so after the audition it was decided to hire me as an administrator, not as a radio host. I worked on shift; I came for the whole day, kept order, and counted CDs etc. I was diffident, was ashamed of my mistakes. Just at night, I had a chance to imagine that I am a radio host and pretend to speak to the audience. Then I met great experts and scenic speech teachers. They helped me to speak clearly and distinctly, but mostly they motivated and inspired me. They also told me something that I can still remember and which helps me to overcome difficulties. Their golden words were: “If you will not believe in yourself, nobody will do it. You should work a lot on yourself and go forward.” Soon after several castings, I was hired as a host of TV program on computer technologies for one of Dnipropetrovsk TV channels. Then I began extramural education at the department of journalism of Dnipropetrovsk University. I graduated and I have been working already for 5 years as a host of “Breakfast with 1+1” which is top-rating morning show.” Just try and you will succeed!