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    • Feelings Need Check-Ups, Too

      A scary thing happened – understanding stress reactions

      After an injury, stress reactions are common in the first few weeks. More than 80 percent of children will report at least one symptom. Stress reactions usually go away with help from family, friends, and the child's own coping skills. Common symptoms include:

      Young children

      • Feeling confused
      • Angers or cries easily
      • Worried
      • Difficult to console
      • Clingy or acts younger
        than their age


      • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
      • Irritable or sad
      • Quieter than usual
      • Difficulty concentrating
      • Avoiding people, places and things

      Important note: Parents and family members can also have stress reactions when their child has been injured.

      A little extra help

      • Some kids need a little extra time to feel better
      • Some kids need a little more help to feel better
      • Ask your doctor where to get more help if your child is anxious, has any of the symptoms above, and/or is:
        • Doing worse in school or not wanting to go back to school
        • Dropping out of things they used to enjoy
      • Don't wait, be proactive in your child's emotional recovery and learn healthy ways to cope with stress

      Six ways you can help children after an injury

      1. Let your children know they are safe. Give them extra hugs (even your teenagers!).
      2. Allow children to talk about their feelings and worries, if they want to. Let them know that being a little scared and upset is normal. If they don't want to talk, they could write a story or draw a picture.
      3. Go back to everyday routines. Help your child get enough sleep, eat regularly, keep up with school, and – as much as the injury allows – go back to doing things with friends.
      4. Increase time with family and friends. Children who get extra support from family and friends seem to do better after upsetting events. Try reading, playing games or watching a movie together.
      5. Take time to deal with your own feelings. It will be harder to help your child if you are worried or upset. Talk about your feelings with other adults such as family, friends, clergy, your doctor or a counselor.
      6. Keep in mind that people in the same family can react in different ways. Remember your child's feelings and worries about the injury might be different from yours. Brothers and sisters can feel upset too, even if they were not involved.

      Six ways to take care of yourself while you care for your injured child

      1. Take time to take care of yourself. Try to get enough sleep and eat regularly.
      2. Use your support system. Talk with people you trust about how you are feeling.
      3. Ask for practical help if you need it. Let others know how they can best be of help to you and your family. Do you need meals or child care?
      4. Try to keep (or get back to) normal routines. It can be especially helpful to return to activities that you and your family enjoy.
      5. Be aware of your own feelings and reactions. Some parents find it upsetting to talk with their child about what happened or they feel anxious or overprotective when their child starts to return to normal activities. If this is true for you, be sure to get support for yourself so that you can best help your child.
      6. Watch out for problematic ways of dealing with stress. Be especially careful not to increase smoking or alcohol use when you are feeling worried, upset or stressed.

      Rate your child's stress reactions


      Behavioral health resources

      • Virginia Treatment Center for Children – 804-828-3129
      • Virginia Community Service Boards –
      • Richmond Behavioral Health Authority - 804-819-4100
      • ChildSavers - 804-644-9590
      • Children's Mental Health Resource Center - or 804-447-2124

      Crisis hotlines

      • National Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK
      • VCU Suicide Hotline – 1-800-784-2433
      • Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth – 1-866-488-7386
      • Crisis One - Urgent community crisis intervention and mobile outreach
        • Fredericksburg: 540-318-4759
        • Greater Richmond: 804-980-5373
        • Roanoke Valley: 540-315-6659
        • Tidewater/Williamsburg: 757-283-5181
        • Northern Virginia: 703-778-2259

      Level l pediatric trauma center

      Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) is the only Level l pediatric trauma center in Virginia. This special designation means CHoR has pediatric specialists available around the clock to treat the most severely injured children. CHoR also provides total care for every aspect of injury – from prevention to rehabilitation.

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      Call 1.804.828.2467.

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