Traumatic Events: Help for Parents and Caregivers

Whether a traumatic event occurs as close as your community or as far-off as another state, it can be deeply disturbing for both children and adults. Children look to parents, other caregivers, and teachers for comfort, reassurance and protection. How can we provide a safe space for children when we may not feel safe ourselves?

The first step is to check in on our own feelings about a traumatic incident. Anger may be the first and most accessible emotion we experience when something tragic happens. Anger may be connected to a sense of powerlessness and frustration to do anything in the face of tragedy. But often, anger is an “umbrella emotion” that may house other feelings, including fear, sadness disappointment, or a deep sense of loss. Allowing yourself to recognize, accept, and experience your emotions can help you process them.

Once you have had an opportunity to pause and consider how you feel, you are more likely to be able to respond to your child in a helpful and effective way. If you seem angry or afraid, your child may be more likely to also feel scared. Taking a deep breath and coming up with thoughtful, calm responses to questions or concerns can help your child—and you—feel less anxious. Offering reassurances about the rarity of traumatic events, and the efforts you and other adults make to keep children safe can also help.

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