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Children's Mental Health and Coping in the Wake of a Traumatic Event

Friday, October 2, 2015

After witnessing a traumatic event, such as school shooting or natural disaster, or watching the event unfold on the news, many children may have questions or experience feelings of anxiety, confusion, or fear. It’s important that adults know how to help them overcome their feelings of grief or fear in a supportive way.

The experts at Children’s National have compiled a number of resources for parents and families, as well as teachers and schools, to know how to appropriately talk to children of different ages about what’s happening and to help them cope in the wake of a traumatic event:

  • The Handbook of Frequently Asked Questions Following Traumatic Events: Violence, Disasters, or Terrorism – English and Spanish
  • Helping Children Cope After a School Shooting – Tip Sheet
  • Children and Traumatic Stress - English | Arabic: To answer essential questions about the impact of a traumatic experience on a child, the ICHOC has developed the "Children and Traumatic Stress" fact sheet. Normal reactions, symptoms of more serious emotional problems, and ways to help children recover are discussed.
  • How to talk to Children About Tragedies. Additional resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This information from the AAP may also be helpful in talking to children about tragedies and difficult or disturbing news events.
  • Being Disaster Ready: Recommendations for Schools: This fact sheet contains recommendations for schools to help them become prepared for traumatic events so that they can respond effectively if an actual event occurs. Educational programs for staff, resiliency programs for students, community communication plans, and disaster drills are discussed.
  • Responding to a Crisis: Tips for Schools: This fact sheet contains tips for actions a school should take during the first critical moments after a traumatic event occurs in a school, through to longer term, recovery-oriented actions. It also includes practical tips for dealing with the media during a school crisis.
  • Helping Children Heal After a Traumatic Event: Suggestions for the Classroom: This fact sheet provides school teachers with practical suggestions for helping make their classrooms places where children can recover emotionally after a traumatic event.
  • Disaster Self Care Action Plan for School Teachers: This fact sheet walks teachers through the preparations they should make for the possibility of a future traumatic event and provides a checklist of recommended actions for taking care of their mental health after an event has occurred.

To access mental health services at Children’s National, we encourage you to speak with your child’s pediatrician and explore the links below to learn more about our programs:

In the event of a mental health crisis our specialists are available by phone for consultation and for emergency psychiatric evaluations in the Emergency Department - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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