After a car accident, children can become nervous, anxious or simply traumatized by what happened. You can help your child by getting back to normal routines as quickly as possible. Try not to hover or be overly anxious yourself—the more normal things are, the better. Give your child a chance to talk about the accident, and be calm and matter of fact as you respond to questions and help your child understand what happened. Let your child know that they are safe now, and be a good role model for coping with a stressful situation.
It is natural for a child to feel distressed after a car accident, and many children get over it on their own. However, some have more trouble and may develop ongoing mental health conditions. It’s important to know the “red flags” for depression, post traumatic stress disorder and other conditions and get professional help if your child needs it.
How can I tell if my child is feeling emotional effects from the accident?
Even a minor car accident can be traumatic for children and adolescents. Because they lack the life experiences that adults have, children can be upset by events even when adults aren’t.
Signs of distress can vary by age:
- Young children may regress, with behaviors like bedwetting, thumb sucking and separation anxiety.
- Older children may become disruptive or may withdraw. They may have trouble sleeping, have nightmares, or have a hard time paying attention. They may have frequent stomach aches or headaches or other behavior changes.
- Adolescents and teens may have the same symptoms as older children. They may also have declining school performance and changes in friends. They can become depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
How can I help my child recover emotionally?
It’s best to take a balanced approach. Take your child’s issues seriously, but don’t dwell on them or talk constantly about the accident. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts:
- DO talk with your child about the accident, IF your child wants to talk. Try to be calm and stick to the facts, explaining things in a way that is appropriate for your child’s age. Children often have misconceptions, such as thinking the accident was their fault, and you can help them by clearing up these issues. Let your children know they are safe.
- DO get back to “normal life” as soon as you can. This includes going back to school or day care and resuming normal social and extracurricular activities. This is reassuring.
- DO take care of yourself. It’s hard to help a child deal with emotional trauma if you are not coping well yourself. Take time for yourself and see a psychologist or other mental health professional if you need extra help.
- DON’T force children to talk, dwell on negatives or “what ifs” or give children more information than they need.
- DO get professional help if your child has serious symptoms or doesn’t seem to be making progress in getting over the accident.
Should I see a doctor or lawyer?
The answer to both is yes. Seeing a doctor after a car accident is important for two reasons. First, if your child has physical injuries, a doctor can diagnose and treat them. It can be hard to tell if a child has been injured without a doctor’s evaluation, and if you don’t get treatment, your child could develop a more serious condition.
Second, Georgia law allows car accident victims to recover money for their physical injuries, plus their related consequences. If your child needs mental health treatment for psychological conditions like PTSD, anxiety or depression, car insurance will cover those costs only if there were also physical injuries. Emotional trauma alone typically is not covered. Seeing a doctor for physical injuries will help you if you need to make a claim for mental health treatment for your child.
Navigating the landscape of insurance companies and courts can be difficult, especially when you’re also dealing with a child who is not coping well. A car accident lawyer can take the burden off you, building a case in your favor and negotiating with insurance companies or filing an Atlanta, Georgia car accident lawsuit to get you the money your child needs to recover.
Get Started with an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer for Free
Our lawyers have a long history of helping families get money when their children are injured in car accidents. We can meet with you for free to go over your case, and we won’t send you a bill unless we collect money for you. Call us at (404) 341-6555 or fill out the form to the right to get your free consultation today.