A few months ago my husband and I and our children came upon the scene of a terrible car crash. There were badly injured bodies on the road and, as it turned out, two were dead. My husband jumped out of the car to try and help while I sat with the children and called 111. I’ve been really unsettled myself ever since, but my seven-year-old son is especially traumatised. He’s terrified of getting in the car and has nightmares. We’ve tried to talk to him but he clams up. Do we need professional help?
Your son is showing two of the signs of trauma. He is unable to resume normal activities and his distress is coming out in his dreams. I would definitely seek professional help. Even if he manages to get on with his life, unless he has dealt with this trauma it will re-emerge whenever he has other upsets in his life. There are several types of professionals who can help and your best way of picking the most suitable one is to ask around. One way is to get in touch with the police, ask them to put you in touch with Victim Support and ask them who they know who will help a child get through trauma. Or, you could ask your general practitioner to recommend someone. There are child counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists who specialise in child trauma. I would be looking for therapists who can not only talk with your child but have non-verbal ways (such as play therapy and art therapy) of helping him overcome his trauma. Another useful way of getting rid of the memories is seeing a hypnotherapist.