Anyone who wasn’t involved in a car accident as a child may find it easy to underestimate the traumatic effect it can have on them – even if no one was seriously injured. The sheer suddenness, likely coupled with seeing their parents upset, angry and frightened, can be enough to haunt any child for a time.
Of course, if there were injuries – even to people in other vehicles – that can increase the trauma, especially if police and other first responders were on the scene. It’s wise to have a doctor look over your child as soon as possible, even if they don’t appear to have any injuries. However, it’s also crucial to keep an eye on how they’re processing what happened.
How to help your child heal emotionally
Let your child talk about the crash, write or draw pictures if that’s how they best express themselves. Don’t let them dwell on what could have happened, but don’t minimize how frightening it was for them. Reassuring them that everyone is safe now can help. You might want to stress that they’re safe because they were in a safety seat or wearing a seatbelt.
Whatever you do, don’t blame your child for the accident or their injuries. They may conclude that if they hadn’t been talking to you or you hadn’t been reaching for their juice box, that you’d have spotted the driver running the stop sign sooner. It’s not their fault.
Getting back to their usual routine is crucial
It’s to be expected that your child may be hesitant about getting in the car again. Many adults have a hard time doing that. If they are, start out with a trip down the street to get ice cream or visit a friend. Let them bring a toy or game. Put on a movie in the back seat or let them listen to music. Taking a day or two off school may be best, but the longer kids stay away from their usual routine, the harder it is to resume it.
If they’re old enough to understand the basics of dealing with insurance or repairs in the aftermath of a crash, then it may make your child feel like they’ve regained control seeing you handle them. Seek compensation to cover psychological care your child (or you) after a crash, in addition to medical treatment, can help.