New guidance to help children cope with trauma

New guidance has been launched to help health visitors support children and families to cope with a traumatic event.

New guidance has been launched to help health visitors support children and families cope with a traumatic event

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More than two thirds of children will experience at least one traumatic event by the age of 16, according to the guidance from the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV).

This can range from large scale incidents such as the Grenfell Tower tragedy and recent terror attacks, to more common events such as car accidents and operations.

Other examples include experiencing or witnessing violence, abuse, serious illnesses or dog bites.

New guidelines

The iHV has worked with the Mental Health Foundation to develop new guidance, aimed at health visitors and parents.

The organisation said children are likely to experience a range of changes in their thinking, emotions, behaviour and physical responses.

For most children, these symptoms will go away on their own in a few weeks, but 10-30% of children go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

The guidance signposts symptoms of PTSD, and children who may be at increased risk of developing the disorder.

Good practice points for health visitors include encouraging parents to support their child through challenging times, and signposting families for specialist trauma assessment and treatment.

Health visitors are also encouraged to take time for self reflection, as professionals working with families who have experienced a traumatic event can be vicariously traumatised themselves. 

Trusting environment

Advice for parents includes seeking help from their GP if there is no improvement in their child's reactions after a month. 

Cheryll Adams, executive director of the iHV, said: 'Through mandated contacts with families, health visitors build good trusted relationships with all families and are, therefore, well placed to provide guidance and support at these difficult times. 

'We hope that this new guidance will help both families and health visitors manage these enormously challenging circumstances with more knowledge of what will help.'

Further information

Traumatic events – Supporting families

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