Talking to Children after a Crisis

Talking to Children after a Crisis


During and after a crisis, children may feel vulnerable and overwhelmed by what they hear through adults and peers or what they see on the news. During these times, children often look to parents for how to deal with significant distress.


What is Secondary Traumatic Stress?

You may wonder why it's important to help your child process feelings during these times. These experiences can lead to significant emotional and behavioral problems that can profoundly alter children’s lives ( The term Secondary Trauma defines what happens to us when we witness, hear, or tell the trauma that happens to others. This can produce symptoms in your child that can mimic those of first-hand trauma.


Common Symptoms in Young People:

- Difficulty controlling emotions        

-Increased Sensitivity to stress

-Excessive worry

-Poor Impulse control

-Mayor aislamiento

-Social anxiety



When helping your child process an act of violence or tragedy, it's important to be able to ground yourself first. Pay attention to your emotions and feelings before starting a conversation with them. Control any feelings of anxiety or anger within yourself as you seek to find the right time to connect with your child. Being prepared to be there for your child involves an increase in self-awareness. This will help you be more attuned with what they need without projecting your own needs onto them. Determine what is most important for you and your child to discuss once you control your own emotions.


When starting the conversation with your child, it's important to allow them to guide the conversation. Don't ask a lot of questions, just listen as your goal is to make your child feel safe while expressing their emotions with you.


Here's a helpful guide to navigating your approach:


Ask some questions about what you've seen or heard on the news.

Give them space to ask any relevant questions based on what they have seen, heard or experienced.

Gather information and provide useful answers to any question large or small.

Offer comfort and security as you validate shared feelings.


The main message is to let them know that thier feelings are normal and that you are a safe place of support.


As you gain confidence in communicating with your child, you may find the need to limit their exposure to news and social media that can overwhelm them with information. Allow breaks from technology by increasing family activities and observe what works to calm and soothe them.


If you notice an increase in the symptoms listed above, be sure to evaluate whether your child should talk to a mental health professional.


To learn more about Secondary Traumatic Stress use the following resources:

Specializes in:  (Ages 4+) Children, Individuals, Families,  Adjustment Disorder,  ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, Communication Skills, and Parenting Skills, Aggression, Behavior Management, Life Transitions, Family Conflict, Difficulty Coping, Relationship Problems, Depression,

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Hilda Dumont, LMFT  

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