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Supporting a child after a road crash

Road crashes and road trauma are not exclusive to adults. Many children each year are involved and impacted by road crashes. However, a child’s road trauma experience is often overlooked and not recognized by others and society. 

How do children commonly react to road trauma?

Some children will experience trauma reactions after a road crash, including:

  • Flashbacks,
  • Nightmares,
  • Sensitivity,
  • Jitteriness,
  • Difficulty in concentrating, and
  • Anxiety issues relating to travel.

If left untreated and not acknowledged, these reactions can develop into depression and other mental health issues.

How can I support a child impacted by road trauma?

To best support a child who has been impacted by road trauma is to provide the child access to and support from a caring adult, ideally, a parent or carer, who can acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts and feelings relating to the crash. 

  • It is helpful to children after a traumatic event to maintain a routine. Ideally, one that already existed.  Going to school, continuing after-school activities like dance and sports, and having a regular bedtime routine. Maintaining routines helps children to feel secure in knowing what to expect. 
  • After a road crash, children may experience emotional outbursts – help the child to understand these are normal reactions and find safe and alternative ways for the child to express feelings of anger or aggressive behaviour.
  • It is common for some children’s schoolwork to decline; carers and parents can assist their child by speaking to the teachers and school support services to discuss a plan at school and at home that would help the child feel supported academically and emotionally. Let the child know who to talk to at school when they feel worried or anxious.  
  • Lastly, all support given to children at this time should be consistent and help to normalize what a child is thinking and feeling.  

If a child continues to experience the trauma reactions discussed above, seek professional support via a General Practitioner, Counsellor or child and youth support agencies.

Even if the trauma occurred some time ago, it is never too late to seek help.

Although we do not host child-appropriate services at this time, carers or parents can contact Road Trauma Support WA at any time after a crash to have a confidential discussion with a trained counsellor about your experience.

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