Early intervention is imperative. Parental support influences how well the child will cope in the aftermath of the event. Parents and professionals can help children by:
- Maintaining a strong physical presence
- Modeling and managing their own expression of feelings and coping
- Establishing routines with flexibility
- Accepting children's regressed behaviors while encouraging and supporting a return to age-appropriate behavior
- Helping children use familiar coping strategies
- Helping children share in maintaining their safety
- Allowing children to tell their story in words, play or pictures to acknowledge and normalize their experience
- Discussing what to do or what has been done to prevent the event from recurring
- Maintaining a stable and familiar environment
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective for children with PTSD. Cognitive training helps children restructure their thoughts and feelings so they can learn to live without feeling threatened. Behavioral interventions include learning to face fears so children no longer avoid people and places that remind them of the event. Relaxation techniques are used with supervised retelling of the child's story about the event to help teach the child how to handle fears and stress effectively. Training parents to help the child with new coping strategies and teaching adult coping strategies is often included.
Several types of medications can help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Antidepressants can help symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications also can improve feelings of anxiety and stress.