As parents we instinctively wish to shield our children from traumatic experiences. There is a significant value to creating an “envelope” around younger children in their most formative years, to bring them an increased feeling of stability and security. There is a significant likelihood that a child, adolescent or young adult will experience a traumatic event such as the death of a grandparent, parent of a schoolmate, or rarely, even the death of a good friend; or other traumatic events or losses. How does a parent best respond to such an event, and when is a psychiatric evaluation warranted?

It is important to provide your child with a supportive and empathetic response following such a trauma. Be a good and active listener. Don’t be afraid to share your own feelings about the loss, and be actively empathizing with their child’s emotional pain. Most often this approach, along with the support of friends and teachers, will enable your child to get through the traumatic event without the need for therapy.

Is there a way to predict which children are at risk for developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? A parental history of anxiety disorders is the best predictor of the development and persistence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children and adolescents who have undergone a traumatic event, according to data presented at the 9th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry.

The data showed that children with a parental history of anxiety disorders were 3 times as likely to have PTSD symptoms at 1 month, and 2 times as likely to have symptoms that persisted at 5 years, as children without a parental history of any anxiety disorder.

While some children and teenagers spontaneously recover from PTSD over time, the results suggest that victims with a parental history of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, PTSD, and phobias, may deserve special attention from mental-health professionals, since they may be at heightened risk for developing PTSD after traumatic experiences.

If you have an anxiety history, you may also want to consider having a psychiatric evaluation and treatment following the traumatic event, to prevent the development of PTSD.

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