Calming Children After a Burglary

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scared childA reader asked if I would write something about the fears children have after there has been a break-in at their home. Most adults feel uneasy and violated when this has happened. For children it is even more troubling, for it represents a failure in the ‘security system’ of their world.

Children between the ages of approximately five to eleven years old, having survived the ‘fear of monsters’ stage , tend to go through a stage where they are afraid of ‘robbers’, even when nothing has really happened to trigger it. A break-in may seem like confirmation of their worst fears.

So we must level with them. Yes, there are people out there who take things that do not belong to them. Talk about how you will increase the security of your home. Suggest that often the intruders are school aged, rather than the scary looking crook in comics and cartoons. Remind them that it would be rare for someone to break in while anyone was at home, so they can feel safe when there are signs of occupancy such as a car in the driveway or garage.

If you come home to signs of a burglary and your children are with you it is important to contain your own emotions. Children will take their clues from the adults around them, so the calmer you are, the better off they will be. Also, be careful what they might overhear as you discuss the incident over the telephone. If they hear you talk about how scared you were, or how vulnerable you now feel, they will be even more unsettled.

Expect that children will need extra reassurance following a break-in, particularly at bed time.If you do not have a dog, children might feel safer if you get one that makes lots of noise when someone comes near the house.

After a couple of months the fears should be settling. If not, or if a child seems to be obsessing about it, then it is time for a few sessions with a trained therapist who works with children.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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