Around 300,000 children and young people are impacted by burglary each year. What can parents do to help their children through these difficult times?
Being burgled is one of the most traumatic crimes we can experience. Not only do victims suffer loss of possessions and the stress of reclaiming what they can on insurance - there is also a worrying psychological impact.
These effects are of even greater concern when children are involved. As children are more vulnerable to trauma, they may not even have to experience the burglary itself to sustain psychological consequences. It's possible for them to be traumatised simply by their parents' reaction. This is because reaction to trauma by parents is a key factor in how children cope with these situations.
Of course, having kids is only going to heighten the trauma of a burglary for parents. In a recent survey by home security company Verisure 500 burglary victims were surveyed in order to gain more insight into how the incident affected their families. Over half of those surveyed with children under 10 felt scared for their child's safety after the incident.
So if you're a parent who's experienced a burglary, what can you do to minimise the potential impact on your kids?
What to look out for
I spoke to the independent charity Victim Support to find out what warning signs to watch out for that may suggest your child could be mentally harmed by a burglary. Amanda Naylor, Head of Children and Young People, said:
"What may seem like a small issue to an adult can have a real impact on some children and young people, whereas others are able to hide their worries and concerns. There are some common signs that your child might show that can prompt you to talk to them. These could include:
- Change in behaviour at school
- Choosing to miss out on activities and hobbies such as sports clubs and youth clubs
- Avoiding food/eating too much food or gaining/losing weight
- Repeatedly complaining of feeling ill or tired
- Trouble sleeping
- Changing their appearance or the clothes they wear
- Changing their routine or avoiding certain people or places
- Changes in behaviour, for example becoming more withdrawn, aggressive or anxious than usual
- Hurting themselves - this can include biting, hair pulling, scratching, or drinking alcohol or taking drugs for older children
- Not communicating with you, teachers or friends
- Being secretive about what they are doing - both online and offline"
You know your child better than anyone, so it's important to really pay attention to their behaviour and try to see things through their eyes.
Reassuring your child
With burglary it's often hard to communicate to your child exactly why something has happened. Although they may not understand, you must try to answer your child's questions as truthfully as possible.
Sometimes parents feel that talking to their kids about the crime could make things worse. Be wary that keeping quiet might make them wonder why you're not discussing the incident and this may confuse or frighten them more, and fears may build up over time. If your child keeps wanting to talk about what happened, you must let them, as it's important for them to know you're there for them.
I took to subReddit r/AskDad to see what advice real parents have for coping with this situation. User hirsty19784 said:
"Kids are quite resilient in most cases but knowing someone has been in their house can really have an impact. I would walk them through security changes you have made and do that pronto!"
Making kids aware that security issues have been fixed was popular advice. Reassure your kids by walking them through your home's safety features and planning out what to do in case of an emergency.
The dads also suggested minimising the negative emotions surrounding the event. User kb_lock said:
"I was thinking my kids would think of robbers as 'baddies' and therefore scary - maybe tell your kids that you aren't mad that your house was robbed because it was someone who really had no other choice to try and feed their family - give them pity and empathy instead of fear."
The situation can be especially difficult if the burglary was your child's fault - for example, if they've left a door open that resulted in an intruder. Minimising negative emotions is particularly important in this situation. You should let your child know that although they did do something wrong, you are not angry, and you are more concerned about their safety than the financial loss. Otherwise they might feel extremely guilty, which could worsen trauma.
For more information on how to help young people through a burglary, see this guide by You & Co and Victims Support.
Image via Brandon Warren