Tips for supporting children and teens following a traumatic event
Following the experience of a crisis event it is not unusual for children, teens and adults to feel upset. Feelings may include shock, sadness, anger, confusion, grief, and irritability. In most cases these reactions are temporary and lessen in the days and weeks that follow. How adults react to a crisis can have a significant effect on how children react to an event and whether the trauma is made better or worse. It is very important that adults who are around those affected remain calm and reassuring as much as possible.
Children and teens with emotional symptoms that interfere with daily functioning (for example, playing with friends or going to school) and that are long lasting (i.e. do not improve after a week following the event) may need additional support in handling their feelings. Some children, based on earlier life experiences, may be more likely to experience distress.
Some signs that a child or teen may need extra help following a traumatic event may include:
- A severe initial reaction of hysteria or panic
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritability and unusually angry responses
- Difficulty concentrating
- Social withdrawal or avoidance of group activities
- Self harm or drug or alcohol use
If you have concerns about your child’s emotional reactions you can contact school counseling staff (518-537-6281), seek help from the Columbia County Mental Health Center (518-828-9446) or contact your family medical provider. For more information about the signs and symptoms of emotional trauma in children and teens you can refer to the National Center for PTSD website:
*Adapted from “Identifying Severely Traumatized Children: Tips for Parents and Educators”, National Association of School Psychologists, nasponline.org, 2011