The protest started with the dances and the songs. The children feared nothing; even the very young ones were even chanting ‘enshash’. Then off went the gun and things went awry! Then follows the fright and the trauma!
I recall reading and seeing many adults who got seriously traumatized by the violence that took over the #EndSARS protest. My daughter, who is in her early twenties, is yet to fully recover from the trauma. She could not sleep for days. So were many others.
That brings us to the mainstay of this piece. If adults could be so affected, how much more the young ones!
Following the violence that followed the protest, and the gory pictures and videos everywhere on the media, children are, no doubt, left confused, worried and scared. Some may not know what is going on but got really scared; while some have glues.
The events are enough to cause trauma in children, and the effect will be long lasting.
We must shield the children from the trauma by not discussing in their presence the police brutality and the violence that followed the protest. We must try as much as possible to keep them away from all the gory videos circulating around. Please reassure them that they are safe.
Some children are at the age they can understand what has been going on. Then engage in a reassuring discussion with them. You must first find out how much of what is going on they know; and pick the conversation from there. You are not to lie to them, anyway but let them know that things really are not irredeemable. Let them not lose faith but must believe that solution will ultimately come particularly from God.
Let them understand that despite what has happened, we place high premium on life. Sanctity of life can never be debated upon.
Studies have shown that children who have witnessed or experienced complex trauma react differently to the trauma. However, one thing stands out; they may internalize or externalize the stress reactions which more often than not lead to depression, anxiety, or anger. Stress in the environment can impair the development of the brain and the nervous system. We do not desire this for our children, no doubt.
It is found that children with complex trauma experiences may develop chronic or recurrent physical complaints such as headaches, stomach aches, irritable bowel movement and a lot more.
Their emotional responses may be unpredictable or explosive. A child may react to a reminder of a trauma with trembling, anger, or sadness.
The recent events in Nigeria have the tendency of creating in the children’s mind that Nigeria is a dangerous place one cannot be sure of protection even from those one looks up to for protection. This might make them be too vigilant and guarded in their perception of the country, and in their interactions and relationship with others.
It is also found that children tend to dissociate, or mentally separate themselves from any overwhelming and terrifying experience they encounter. This might turn out to be the situation for Nigerian children in Diaspora. These ones may mentally dissociate from Nigeria perceiving it as a country exhibiting so much violence.
My little niece, unfortunately, watched the video of the Toll gate shooting and the violence that followed thereafter. She cried herself to sleep and told her mum that she would never go to Nigeria.
We must check the exposure of our children to all these violence going on. For those who have been exposed to all the videos, it is time to find out how much they have been affected mentally. Reassure them and instill faith. Some of them could be traumatized by now without us knowing.
Please check out for these signs: difficulty in sleeping, or eating, unusual nightmares, depressive moods, intense emotional upset and outbursts, unusual lack of attention or focus; anything unusual such as talking to oneself, constant and persistent aches and pains, and resumption of bedwetting.
There is an obligation on us to protect the mental well-being of our children. We still need these children to maintain faith in our nation and not see it as a total failure. So we have got work at our hand.