Children and youth can face emotional strains after a traumatic event such as a car crash or violence. When children experience a trauma, watch it on TV or overhear others discussing it, they can feel scared, confused or anxious. Young people react to trauma differently than adults. Some may react right away; others may show signs that they are having a difficult time much later. As such, adults do not always know when a child needs help coping. This tip sheet will help parents, caregivers and teachers respond in a helpful way.
Preschool children (0-5 years old)
Give these very young children a lot of cuddling and verbal support:
- Take a deep breath before holding or picking them up and focus on them, not the trauma.
- Get down to their eye level and speak in a calm, gentle voice using words they can understand.
- Tell them that you still care for them and will continue to take care of them so they feel safe.
Early childhood to adolescence (6-19 years old)
Nurture children and youth in this age group:
- Ask your child or the children in your care what worries them and what might help them cope.
- Offer comfort with gentle words, a hug when appropriate, or just being present with them.
- Spend more time with the children than usual, even for a short while. Returning to school activities and getting back to routines at home is important too.
- Excuse traumatized children from chores for a day or two. After that, make sure they have age-appropriate tasks and can participate in a way that makes them feel useful.
- Support children spending time with friends or having quiet time to write or create art.
- Encourage children to participate in recreational activities so they can move around and play with others.
- Address your own trauma in a healthy way.
When children, youth and parents, caregivers or teachers need more help
In some instances, a child and their family may have trouble getting past a trauma. Parents or caregivers may be afraid to leave a child alone. Teachers may see that a student is upset or seems different. It may be helpful for everyone to work together. Consider calling BJC EAP for help.