I had an accident with my 1.5 year old daughter two days ago: I carried her in my carrier on the chest and, while trying to move a bulky item through a narrow opening, I stumbled so that she was tilted towards the side and hit her head quite hard on an iron gate next to us. She cried and I tried to comfort her immediately. She did not cry for long, less than 5 minutes, and for the rest of the day I did not notice anything strange. We went to bed. In the night, she woke up very often, crying, so at some point I took her into my bed. In the early morning of yesterday, everything seemed still well and normal.

But then we went outside to run errands and there it started: She looked mostly down while walking, which is an unusual behaviour for her. Then she stopped and pointed at the ants on the ground. I told her some things about the ants, we watched them, and then I tried to make her come with me. She did not want to, she seemed troubled. Then a fire bug (much larger than an ant) walked towards her and she started crying and tried to move her feet upwards (yes, both) so that it was clear to me that she was afraid of that bug. So I took her into my arms. Tried to tell her some interesting things about fire bugs, pointed at them, moved a little closer, but she had enough and just wanted to be away from it. Okay, I carried her the rest of the way. Whenever I had to put her down (to get stuff out of my pocket etc.), she looked down and seemed to be scanning for dangers on the ground.

Next issue: After the afternoon nap we went outside to go to the playground. She wanted to walk down the stairs on her own, as usual. Again, she looked down, scanning for dangers. Then she found one: a pebble stone on the stair. She refused to walk any further. She tried going around it, but failed (there was no handrail on the other side so she could not take the step) and just stood there. I tried to show her how interesting that pebble stone was, touched it, walked on it, showed here that it is not dangerous. Didn't help. So I carried her again until outside.

On the playground she accepted all the suggestions I gave her (things she usually likes or loves, like "Do you want to swing?", "Let's bake a sand cake!"), but she was not fully there. I mean mentally. She was absent somehow and could not really enjoy it. In the sand I noticed that she tried to get rid of every bit of sand on her hands all the time.

During dinner, she was mostly normal again (we found something to make her laugh again before dinner, so her mood seemed to be good), but like in the sand, whenever she spilled something (even if just a little drop of tea or a bread crumb), she wanted it cleaned.

The night I let her sleep with me from the beginning. She cried often in the night, but did not seem to wake up (just some cries, then silence again, eyes closed all the time).

Today I went to the doctor with her to have a look at the bump on her head. Was afraid that I damaged something. But the doctor said they have no reason to believe that there is any long-term physical damage (like bone fracture or brain damage): She did not vomit, she did not pass out, she did not behave lethargic for almost 48 hours after the accident. Her pupils and reflexes are all normal, and the bump is not very large.

So let's assume the strange behaviour is "merely" psychological. I can imagine that the incident is/was very hard on her psychologically: She was in the most comfortable, most secure/safe situation she knows (carried by me in the carrier). And then she got hit so hard out of nothing. She could not even see anything coming because her face was towards me, she was hit on the back of her head. I know that such things - experiencing something unexpected and painful in a situation that is associated with complete security/safety - can destroy confidence in life, at least for adults. So why not for children as well?

So I just have one question: What can I do to help her get over it?

At her age, she has not enough verbal skills to understand me if I explain to her what happened.

I have to note that I myself had an anxiety disorder as a child (started around age 10, slowly faded away around 18), and that increased need for order and cleanliness (like with the sand on her hands and spilled food during dinner) is a clear sign of stress in my case. So she may have gotten all the ingredients, genetically, to develop an anxiety disorder herself.

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    I think your best approach here is to ignore it for at least a week and see what happens. What might be happening here is that you feel guilty and anxious yourself (as evidenced by that large amount of text). That anxiety might gets projected to your child and she picks up on your mood and a general sense of worry. It's natural to feel guilty but it doesn't help. These things just happen and are perfectly normal. Try to relax as much as you can and ignore it for a bit. The better your mood is, the better hers will be and the quicker she will get over it
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 28 at 13:22
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    My daughter hat a similar experience, where our dog threw over her vehicle at around 1 3/4. It lead to increased crying and an overall "bad mood" for one or two days but afterwards she was fine (no increased fear of the dog, the vehicle or anything else as far as I see). What we did was being there, and lots of cuddling when needed. This is not an answer, but maybe calms you for the few days, as @Hilmar suggested.
    – Lehue
    Commented May 29 at 10:57
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    It is 5 days after the accident, and she is almost back to normal. She is still afraid of some things she wasn't before, like bugs, but that might have happened even without the accident (her brother sometimes screams when a large fly comes too close to him, and she sees that). She is not absent at all, she enjoys the usual things. So I guess you were right.
    – Kjara
    Commented May 31 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure if this would work with a 1.5 year old as they're pre-verbal, but The Whole Brain child recommends letting kids talk about the experience (venting basically), and also providing them with real perspective on the issue, rather just trying to make the feelings go away. Kids, like anyone, want to understand, and things are less scary when they understand what happened / what's going on.

But then we get back to the fact that your girl is pre-verbal, so I think you may need to comfort her in other ways. If she gets upset, skin-to-skin, talk to her gently, sing, eye contact. That will relieve the pain and make the memory of the incident slowly fade.

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