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How Do Children React After a Georgia Drunk Driving Death? Part One: Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers

It is tough to understand Georgia impaired-driving deaths, even for an adult. After experiencing such a deep and profound loss, you may wonder, “How can I help my child handle what has happened when I can barely manage it myself?”
How a child understands and reacts to a Georgia DUI death will depend on his or her age and emotional maturity. It only makes sense that an infant won’t respond to the loss of a loved one in the same way as an eight-year-old, and that a toddler will understand what has happened differently than a teen.
Part One of this article will discuss the reactions of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children to the loss of a loved one in a Georgia DUI accident. Part Two will focus on the emotional reactions of school-aged children.
Infants
Young infants can’t understand death, but they do feel the loss of someone who has been a constant presence in their lives. Young infants will cry when they lose a parent or regular caregiver to a Georgia DUI accident. This may be partly due to a change in the routine and manner of care that the infant has come to expect.
Older infants are more aware of their loved ones. An older infant who has lost a close family member may express his feelings through loud screams of anger, disturbed sleep, or disinterest in food and toys – even favorite toys. A child who sleeps through the night may begin night-waking.
Infants need love and routine. As they adjust to their new caregivers and new routines, they often return to their usual behavior.
Toddlers and preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers are literal thinkers. A toddler can understand the idea of “gone,” but may believe that the absence is temporary, like how Elmo is “gone” when he plays peek-a-boo. A preschooler may have a better understanding of the drunk driving death, but can easily misinterpret what he is told or will interpret it in his own way. Young children do not fully understand the permanence of death until ages six to eight, when they begin to understand the relationship between cause and effect.
Many people assume that toddlers and preschoolers do not experience grief. However, this is not true. While they do not understand the permanence of death, toddlers and preschoolers do feel the loss of a loved one profoundly. They are unable to vocalize their grief and may express their sadness through tantrums, angry outbursts, crying or regressive behavior. A toddler may start sucking his thumb, ask for a bottle, or return to diapers.
Preschoolers often appear to understand the loss of a loved one. However, they can’t understand the permanence of death and may ask when their loved one will return. A five-year-old who was told of the death of a favorite babysitter considered the situation for a few days and then tearfully asked, “Did Miss Bessie turn into worm food?” Later the same day, the child remembered that Miss Bessie used to make cookies and asked when she would come to visit. Both reactions are normal for a five-year-old.
In order to help your child cope with loss after a Georgia DUI accident, you must be able to cope with your own emotions. Atlanta DUI injury attorney Shane Smith has dedicated this website to providing resources for Georgia DUI victims and their families. If you have questions, you are welcome to contact the Law Offices of Shane Smith at 770-HURT-999.


Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia