“The good news is that children and youth are usually quite resilient,” says the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. However, they’ll still need help coping with traumatic news.
A SAMHSA tip sheet on this subject notes that children at all stages need to express feelings about what’s happened. Kids under six may re-enact the event in their play or tell exaggerated stories about it. Older kids may want to talk, write, draw or sing about the event. Or kids may just want to cry, which relieves their stress. SAMHSA says they have to know that their feelings and questions are all right — but “Don’t let talking about the trauma take over the family or classroom discussion for long periods of time.”
Seeing repeated reports about the event may lead younger kids to think it’s happening again and again. So limit their exposure to media coverage, and try to view it with them.
With younger children, physical and verbal comfort go a long way. With those over six, be guided by their needs and questions.
Remind children of the positive actions by those who responded to the event. Even if you feel traumatized yourself, model self-control and self-care (regular meals, etc.).
If anyone in the family seems unable to get over what happened, speak to a mental health professional.
The advice on this site is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace professional consultation.