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Signs of trauma in children


Lessons from an article on the Black Saturday fires in Victoria

“After trauma, children can experience a range of physical and emotional reactions, including sleep problems and a lack of concentration.” Ms Vicki Trethowan, Psychologist (The Age, Monday September 3 2012, p. 13)

This quote appeared in today’s Age newspaper in relation to the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria 2009. The article shared important insights into reading the signs of trauma in children. The insights are summarised in this post.


Signs of trauma in children

Signs of trauma may vary for all children, and also between children of different ages. The signs described by Ms Vicki Trethowan were:


Young children

  • Quiet or withdrawn
  • Tantrums
  • Clingy behaviour
  • Regressive behaviour including wetting their beds and sucking their thumbs


Older children

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constant thoughts of the traumatic incident
  • Loss of appetite



  • Risky behaviour
  • Withdrawal from family life
  • Substance abuse


Other experiences mentioned in the article included nightmares, panic attacks and lack of sleep.

Helping children through trauma

Psychologists and the community talked about the ways they helped children through trauma, through both their personal and professional experience.

They said that the keys to beginning the recovery process for children are for them to connect with people they know, return to a routine and have safe and supportive environments.

Ms Trethowan said that it’s important to let children take the lead, listen to them and acknowledge them.

As we have discussed on this site, feelings of trauma and grief can be experienced for some time and children will need ongoing support.


The articles in today’s Age can be found here:

Related articles on The Last Post

We’ve written articles that may help you understand grief in our series on “Grieving“.


This post provides an overview of our articles to make it easy for you to find what you need: