Help Your Child Cope

How to Help Your Child Cope During Times of Crisis

  • Listen to your child. Let your child express what he or she is feeling, and let him/her know you understand those feelings and why your child is feeling that way.
  • Respond to your child’s questions as much as possible and in an age-appropriate manner. While a 6-year-old does not need or want all the sordid and graphic details, an 11-year-old may feel even more threatened if he or she feels you are hiding things.
  • Be willing to discuss difficult issues with your child. You won’t have the answers as to why bad things happen, but be willing to discuss what you don’t know and understand. By letting your child express his or her thought, you can help the child put the situation into perspective. For an older child with revenge or retaliation fantasies, help him/her to understand the real consequences of any such actions.
  • Limit exposure to negative information for a young child (up to about age 9 or 10). Knowing every detail, especially if it might be presented via TV news or through adult-to-adult discussion will make most children, especially younger children, feel more anxious and emotional.
  • Stick to factual information about a crisis situation. Avoid projecting your own fears to your child. Try to be as strong and supportive as possible.
  • Offer reassurances to a child of his or her own safety. Crisis events often bring reactions, such as increased security. Inform your child of such changes and of other things that pertain to his or her personal safety.
  • Let your child know that you are personally there to protect and provide. Give both verbal and physical reassurances of your love and care. Tell your child that you love him/her and are going to take care of him/her. Offer hugs and kisses that back up that message.
  • Try to maintain normal routines. Adding some special touches, such as an extra stuffed animal or a bedtime story for young children, or additional special time together for older children, can be especially reassuring.
  • If your child is having an especially strong reaction to the situation, seek professional help. A school counselor or psychologist can be a good starting point and can refer you to additional resources if necessary.

From guidelines by the National Association of School Psychologists,