Helping Children Cope After a Traumatic Event

Guides

Tips for Helping Kids Recover in a Healthy Way

  • Realize that questions may persist. Because the aftermath of a disaster may include constantly changing situations, children may have questions on more than on occasion. Let them know you are ready to talk at any time. Children need to digest information on their own timetable and questions might come out of nowhere.
  • Encourage family discussions about the death of a loved one. When families can talk and feel sad together, it’s more likely that kids will share their feelings.
  • Do not give children too much responsibility. It is very important not to overburden kids with tasks, or give them adult ones, as this can be too stressful for them. Instead, for the near future you should lower expectations for household duties and school demands, although it is good to have them do at least some chores.
  • Give special help to kids with special needs. These children may require more time, support and guidance than other children. You might need to simplify the language you use, and repeat things very often. You may also need to tailor information to your child’s strength; for instance, a child with language disability may better understand information through the use of visual materials or other means of communication you are used to.
  • Watch for signs of trauma. Within the first month after a disaster it is common for kids to seem mostly okay. After that, the numbness wears off and kids might experience more symptoms — especially children who have witnessed injuries or death, lost immediate family members, experienced previous trauma in their lives or who are not resettled in a new home.
  • Know when to seek help. Although anxiety and other issues may last for months, seek immediate help from your family doctor or from a mental health professional if they do not abate or your child starts to hear voices, sees things that are not there, becomes paranoid, experiences panic attacks, or has thoughts of wanting to harm himself or other people.
  • Take care of yourself. You can best help your child when you help yourself. Talk about concerns with friends and relatives; it might be helpful to form a support group. If you belong to a church or community group, keep participating. Try to eat right, drink enough water, stick to exercise routines, and get enough sleep. Physical health protects against emotional vulnerability. To reduce stress, do deep breathing. If you suffer from severe anxiety that interferes with your ability to function, seek help from a doctor or mental health professional and if you don’t have access to one, talk with a religious leader. Recognize your need for help and get it. Do it for your child’s sake, if for no other reason.

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