HOW TO HELP
You do not need to be a therapist to help children or adolescents deal with traumatic events. There are many steps supportive adults can take that can lead to recovery after the trauma. Remember, every child is different and every situation is different. There are many ways to help a child or adolescent handle a traumatic event. Even before symptoms appear, adults can:
Control your own emotions. Children and adolescents are aware of your mood in the best of times. After a trauma, a sudden change in your mood can be especially upsetting. If that happens, let the children know that you are reacting to a memory and it is not their fault.
Avoid loud noises, such as slamming doors and raised voices. Children who go through a traumatic event are often more sensitive to loud noises than others.
Be aware of loud noises or other situations that could scare the child. For example, be prepared to hold the child if severe weather is on the way.
Reassure children they are safe. Let them know adults they trust are in control of the situation and will make sure no harm comes to them. Even though you know the children are safe, it is important that they know and feel it themselves.
Take children’s concerns seriously. Often, adults do not understand that children can have a traumatic reaction to events that may not seem traumatic to them. Sometimes adults are trying to cope with the trauma themselves. It is important to remember that children of all ages may have a strong reaction to a trauma, even those who are very young.
Encourage children to talk about the traumatic experiences but do not push them. Talking can help children process the event and recover. But it is also important for children to understand which adults are safe for these conversations.
Listen patiently without criticism or judgment. It may be difficult for adults to hear children repeat the details of the event, ask the same questions over and over, or "play" out the situation with dolls or cars. But be patient and let them talk. It can help them to understand and work towards their recovery.
Assure children that the traumatic event was not their fault. Sometimes children and adolescents feel guilty about a traumatic event. Reassure them it was not their fault and try to help them understand why they were not responsible for the event.
Answer children’s questions in words they can understand. It can sometimes be hard to talk at the right level. Encourage children to ask questions if there is anything they do not understand.
Make sure children are not isolated. It is important for children who experience trauma to be in a loving, safe environment.
Return to normal activities and routines as soon as possible. Try to set or keep family schedules for eating, playing and sleeping to help children feel more secure.
Spend extra time with the children. Hugs, hand holding and other physical signs of affection are very comforting. Try to be with the child as much as possible. Build more family time into your schedule and try to avoid travel away from the child if possible.
Find ways to relax and have fun together as a family.
Honor family traditions that bring children close to the people they love.
Help children find activities that keep their minds and bodies busy. Be sure the activities are right for the child’s age. Parents and other safe adults should be a part of these activities if possible.
Give children choices. Instead of telling children to do or not to do something, give them two appropriate choices and allow them to choose one.
Give the children age-appropriate chores or routines. Present rewards when the children complete the chores or routines, allowing them to feel in control of their environment.
Let the children’s teachers know about the traumatic event. Ask teachers to tell you if there are sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
If you or someone you know experiences a serious life-threatening emotional crisis as the result of trauma, contact 9-1-1 as soon as possible.
If you would like to find Tarrant County resources to help children and adults cope with trauma, call
817-335-3022 or 1-800-866-2465
Report child abuse immediately: 1-800-252-5400
Report child abuse online (reports to the website will receive a response within 24 hours)