Coping with Trauma

Helping Children & Teens Cope with Trauma

Talk with your children about their feelings. Children from preschoolers to young adults need to hear that it is normal to feel frightened. When you acknowledge these feelings, it will help them to heal.

Remember that you do not have to "fix" how your child feels. Instead, focus on helping them understand and cope with their experiences. Healing is a gradual process for most children, and some may need professional help.

If signs of stress do not subside after a few weeks, or if they get worse, consider consulting a mental health professional who has special training in working with children or teens.

Help your Teenagers

  • Provide extra attention and consideration.
  • Be there to listen to your teen, but don't force them to talk about feelings and emotions.
  • Encourage discussion of traumatic experiences among peers.
  • Promote involvement with community recovery work.
  • Urge participation in physical activities.
  • Encourage resumption of regular social and recreational activities.
  • Rehearse safety plan for possible future incidents.

Help your Elementary Age Children

  • Provide extra attention and consideration.
  • Listen to the child’s retelling of the traumatic experience.
  • Set firm limits for acting out behavior.
  • Encourage the child to express thoughts and feelings through conversation and play.
  • Provide home chores that are structured but not too demanding.
  • Rehearse safety measures for possible future incidents.

Help your Preschooler

Stick to regular family routines.

  • Make an extra effort to provide comfort and reassurance.
  • Avoid unnecessary separations.
  • Permit a child to sleep in the parents’ room temporarily.
  • Encourage child to express emotions through play, drawing and storytelling.
  • Limit exposure to TV.
  • Play outside together.
  • Develop a family emergency plan for future emergencies.

Source: SAMHSA