Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, most adults have accepted that we live in a new era of trying times.
Tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, as well as explosions, and other traumatic events threaten our sense of safety and security, and they occur around the world on any given day. Adults often struggle with the effects of trauma, even though they understand them. But children react differently based on their personality, age, and circumstances.
Children rely on the support of parents and teachers to help them deal with their emotions during and after traumatic events. Parents should decide how much information their children can handle.
ADAA member Aureen Wagner, PhD, Director of The Anxiety Wellness Center in Cary, North Carolina, offers this recommendation for parents:
“Remain as calm as possible; watch and listen to your child to understand how upset he or she is. Explain a traumatic event as accurately as possible, but don’t give graphic details. It’s best not to give more information than your child asks for. Let your child know that it is normal to feel upset, scared or angry. If older children or teenagers want to watch television or read news online about a traumatic event, be available to them, especially to discuss what they are seeing and reading.”
These tips are important for children and adolescents of all ages:
Most children and teenagers will recover from their fear. But you can watch for these signs of ongoing distress:
If after a month or so your child is still showing signs of distress, professional help may be indicated. Children who have trouble getting beyond their fears may be suffering from PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder. And that’s when it’s time to seek the assistance of a mental health professional. Many effective treatments are available for children and teens.