Returning to Routines

It is important that you have your child return to normal activities as soon as possible after a traumatic event, as in PTSD, or when your child’s mood has dropped due to longstanding anxiety. If your youth has experienced a traumatic event, it is natural to want to allow him/her time alone, but this is actually unhelpful. Following a trauma, your child should be back in school within a few days (if possible), and continuing with his/her usual routine. This includes going to bed and getting up at the usual times, and participating in school or community activities (for example, sports teams, hobbies, visiting with friends). Helping your youth re-connect with routine life, rather than avoid or isolate, is critical. This allows him/her a chance to heal within the context of a supportive environment. However, if a return to certain environments, or to time spent with specific individuals, places your child at increased risk of re-traumatization, then you will need to create a more tailored plan.

In addition to encouraging a return to routines, scheduling pleasant events can also help youth with PTSD, and those experiencing a combination of anxiety and low mood. These youth often isolate themselves and avoid being around others, so scheduling pleasant events can reduce this tendency and help them feel better. You will want to involve your child or teen in the decision making and planning of pleasant activities, as this will increase the likelihood s/he will engage in these activities routinely. It’s important that whatever activities are chosen are truly pleasant, as this will reduce the risk of reminders of the trauma when having fun.

Options

  • Going to the movies, aquarium, museum, or a video arcade
  • Going shopping
  • Playing in the park, at a friends, or at the beach/lake
  • Visiting friends
  • Playing sports or engaging in recreational activities
  • Bike riding, running, dancing, or skiing
  • Doing art, crafts or painting
  • Making a movie or music playlist
  • Taking a bubble bath or spa shower