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Resources for after a Tragedy

In the aftermath of a tragedy, it’s normal to feel sadness, anxiety, fear, anger or any mix of these emotions. It's important to keep an eye on each other and reach out to family, friends or counselors if you notice warning signs that someone is feeling hopeless or depressed. The signs could include withdrawing and isolating oneself, not sleeping or sleeping all the time, increased use of drugs or alcohol and talking about death or dying.
Keep in mind, everyone responds to a tragedy differently. You, your child and children may all have different responses to trauma.  Different emotions, such as, crying, anger or nervous laughter, are all acceptable ways to react.  Children will often be sad one minute and off playing the next.  They often bring up the event at times that are unexpected, such as, at the grocery store, in the car or right before you drop them off at a friend’s house.

How to support your child following a tragedy:

  • Talk to your child: Allow your child to talk about the event.  Sharing the event over and over can support their recovery.  Take their lead on how much they are talking about or saying.  Remind them they are safe and be reassuring. Tips for Parents and Teachers on how to talk to your children about violence. 
  • Spend time together: Children need to feel safe. Taking time to spend together as a family can support recovery.  Being together can help children feel safe and connected.  Provide extra affection and reassurance.
  • Reduce exposure to media: This is especially important for young children (ages 4-9), even if they are in the next room.  Continued exposure to the coverage of an event can create more anxiety, cause them to believe the event is still occurring and inhibit their ability to move past the trauma.
  • Keep structures in place at home: Try to maintain similar routines and structures at home, such as regular bedtime, meals and activities as much as possible.  Keeping the same family rules can provide comfort in times of tragedy.  Although, we often feel like lightening up on rules at this time, providing this structure can help children feel safe and secure.
  • Teach your child coping strategies and breathing exercises: Teaching your child healthy ways to cope with stress is a great way to support your child.  Deep breathing, journaling, drawing a picture, listening to music are all ways to support their coping.  Children will find comfort in learning how you also handle stress in healthy ways.
  • Access professional help: Seek support right away if your child is having thoughts of suicide or harming themselves, panic attacks, or seeing/hearing things that aren’t there.  Your school counselor and/ or school mental health provider is at the school to support your family and discuss more ideas of how to assist your child after a trauma. A number of external resources are available to support students and families in crisis.

Below is an infographic from the National Association of School Psychologists with tips for parents and educations on talking to children about violence: 

Violence Infographic