Maria is a 12-year-old girl who was hospitalized after being diagnosed with a serious illness. Although Maria is recovering physically, she is reluctant to go back to school and doesn’t want to be with her friends. Maria’s Spanish-speaking parents visit the center frequently, and report that Maria is withdrawn and bothered by nightmares. How would you assist Maria and her family? Where would you go for information and patient education handouts that they could easily understand?
It is common for children and their families to suffer from posttraumatic stress after a serious illness, injury, or hospitalization. Like Maria, children can have symptoms of avoidance, withdrawal, hyperarousal, or intrusive thoughts.
In many cases, traumatic stress symptoms are related to the child’s or parent’s own beliefs about the level of life threat or ongoing fears, rather than the severity of the illness or injury. In Maria’s case, she may be silently worried about the side-effects of her disease or about a recurrence of her illness. Like many kids, she may not want to tell anyone about her worries and fears. Without asking, healthcare providers do not know which child or family is at risk or who is having difficulty.
The Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress has developed many Spanish-language handouts for parents/caregivers and children to help them cope with various medical situations.