Helping Your Children Recover from a Home Invasion

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Kids afraid laying in bed and pulling the quilt on their heads

It might be one of the most terrifying fears: having our home broken into and our sense of security shaken. Home invasions feel like violations and they are difficult to overcome. For children, the trauma of a home invasion can disrupt everything from sleeping and eating patterns, lead to irrational fears about things that have nothing to do with the invasion, cause nightmares and much more. How do you best handle helping your children while at the same time helping yourself amidst calling insurance companies, contractors, and pawn shops? What steps can you take to restore a sense of normalcy as soon as possible while easing your children’s nerves and anxiety and restoring your own peace of mind?

Reassure Your Child

Seeing your children suffer after a break-in is cause for any parent to want to quickly make the trauma go away. But recovering emotionally is more difficult for children, in part because they don’t have the same emotional context to think about situations rationally after the event. They might worry, for example, that the robber is coming to their school or their friends’ house next. Or, they might hear normal sounds in your house, such as the cat jumping to the floor, and think the invader is back.

It’s important you give your kids extra time and space to process their fears. Reassure them their feelings are okay, that you as a parent are watching out for their safety, and that you are taking steps to help make sure it doesn’t happen again. You should regularly reassure them with the message “I understand you are afraid and that is normal but I am going protect you as best I can and keep you safe.” Remind and encourage them that they can talk about their feelings or concerns with you.

Keep Your Normal Routine

Kids need routine to feel secure. Predictability helps them feel a sense of stability. As soon as possible, return to your family routines just as you had them before the invasion. Eat meals at your regular times, return to school, work and after-school activities as before. And get to bed on time. The more things seem normal, the better the chances of reducing your children’s anxiety.

Secure Your Home

Burglars often return to a home they have broken into in the past. They know the layout or they know there are items they still want. After a break in, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the chance of a recurrence. Technology advancements have made it possible for anyone to take control of home security.

Change your doors: According to government statistics, the most common way for an intruder to enter is through a front door, although any door is a potential opportunity. Replace hollow-entry and side doors with solid wood, fiberglass or steel options. Make sure your new doors have impact-resistant glass and multiple locking points. Pella has designed front-entry doors with a multi-point lock that latches in three places, rendering them virtually impossible for an invader to kick open. Show your children how to use deadbolts properly and instruct them on locking doors as they come and go.

Install home security cameras: Security cameras are easy to install, affordable and can be monitored via an app from anywhere in the world. Lorex makes affordable systems for virtually any budget. Consider a system that includes enough cameras to install in your homes’ common areas, around the exterior perimeter of your home and outside each bedroom. Also look into wireless systems because with no wires to cut, burglars can’t disable your cameras. Show your children where cameras are being placed and how they work so they can see how you are monitoring activity in your home. If your children have smartphones, you can download the app to their phone so they have the same ability as you to watch the cameras 24/7.

Have you ever experienced a break-in?

Disclosure

Krystle Cook - the creator of Home Jobs by MOM - put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.

Comments

  1. Beth Niebuhr says:

    Yes, I did but my kids were grown up although one lived at home still. I mention that because he had a parrot and I think the parrot scared the guy away before he took too much of value. I do remember a similar thing as a child, seeing a house very near to us burn completely down and I was terrified of being by myself for quite awhile afterwards.

    • Good parrot! My mom had one as a child too in South America. Seeing that fire must of been hard as a kid. I could see my son freaking out every time he saw one after that.

  2. I did have my home broken into once. I was living in a condo building with three units in an urban area (Jersey City). No one was home at the time. One of my neighbors saw someone suspicious on my front steps and had called the police who caught the guy and arrested him in my backyard. Another neighbor found a watch that the thief had tried to escape with and returned it to me. And a third name came over and fixed my door so it was secure until I could replace it. The negative feeling about this intrusion was offset by good feelings about my neighborhood and my neighbors. Did not have children at the time and it certainly would have had a much more negative impact if I was home.

  3. I have experienced several break ins before I married and had children. It was quite frightening and left me feeling rather vulnerable. I chose not to take up the offer of a friend/family member staying over as I wanted to get back to my normal routine. I did leave the hallway light and radio on for a few nights though!

    Children need to feel safe and if they notice anxiety in their parents, they may react badly. Normal routine is the key after a burglary as well as good security to minimise it occurring again.

    • You are very right about children noticing how you react. It’s like when they fall when they are little and they first look at you to see what you do. If you freak out they freak out. If you’re okay they’re okay.

  4. These are great tips. I remember our house was broken into when I was a kid, and it was quite a while before I felt safe again. Getting a security system really did help.

    • I can only imagine the fear for a child. I know it would freak me out let alone a kid. I bet a security system would help their peace of mind immensely. Especially one with cameras.

  5. Great advice. We experienced a break-in several years ago so I’m very familiar with that feeling you described – although it would have been much harder if there had been children involved. In our case the thief turned out to be a neighbor’s son and the police caught him, but by that time he’d already spent all the cash and sold the merchandise he’d stolen.

  6. I cannot imagine how frightening that must be to have that happen. It is scary to us adults thinking about the violation of your home, wondering if the will return someday. Imagine how much more intense it is for a child to comprehend what has occurred.
    I think you suggestions, although not remove, will decrease those concerns in children. If nothing else, it should at least give you a more sense of security in terms of worrying about them. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I’ve experienced two break ins when I was a kid. It was horrible. I lost trust in some people. The messed up thing is that I have a good idea who broke into my house again. After that I started watching who I let in the house to play the playstation.

  8. What a horrible thing to have happen, to anyone. I have security cameras and a house alarm on my won home and it make me feel so much more secure. We’ve actually helped the police apprehend someone who stole items from our neighbour’s car.

  9. Jacqueline Gum says:

    It’s hard for me to even imagine something so horrifying for a child, Sounds very prudent to get back into a normal routine, though and I love the idea of cameras with apps that they can actually watch to reassure themselves. Yes, my home was broken into twice! But I had a very loud alarm and both times it scared them away. But I honestly slept with the lights on in the house for moths after…each time!

  10. Pamela Chollet says:

    This is such an informative and important post for parents, Krystle. Young children lack the expressive skills to communicate all that they’re feeling. But, they pick up on EVERYTHING. They absorb tension like a sponge and it usually manifests in their behavior. The tricky thing with traumatic events and children is that they seem fine right after the event occurs so parents feel their kids are, “fine”. The problems may not surface for 2 -6 months after the event. So it’s important after any type of upheaval for every family member to discuss the emotional aftermath. Tell your children how YOU feel and what you’re doing to feel better, It will open the door to, “Gee my mom is scared too, being scared is ok”.

    • I can totally see kids being fine at first. But then something comes along that reminds them of that terrible event and then their true feelings come out. I can see it happening with adults too.

  11. Yes, that’s a horrible feeling of being violated in a very basic way. Someone entering your domain uninvited and stealing your stuff. It happened to me as a child and I lost my prize boom box. I can smile about it now because it was a boom box but back then it was not so humourous.

    • Sorry about your boom box Tim. I had one too of course but it was never stolen. The feeling of being violated and the fear of them coming back for more is awful. I hope they caught your bad guys!

  12. We did have a home invasion once, many years ago in another location. It was nighttime and we saw the shadow come around in the window. He broke into the side door and came in. My husb got out of bed and got a chair to confront him, but I whispered for him to stay away, so he did. The burglar took my pocketbook and a few things and left. It was very scary. There have been quite a few home invasions, and attempts at them. I am surprised to see many times they come around @ 5:00 am, whole families there not up yet. I want a small house and would want a good security system.

    • What a scary experience. It was smart of you to have your husband just stay back. Sometimes the things they can steal aren’t worth putting your life or somebody else’s life at risk. A good security system definitely helps a lot!

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