7 Ways to Support Children through Traumatic Events

We know that the New Richmond community has experienced a recent traumatic event due to the sudden, heartbreaking death of a student and his family.

Traumatic events understandably leave caregivers with many questions about how to support and comfort their children. Dr. Lynne Merk, Staff Psychologist with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, recommends these tips to help.

1. Maintain regular routines – structure provides children with a sense of safety and security.

2. Remind child(ren) they are safe.

3. Follow the child’s lead in communicating – Let your child talk first, and ask what they have heard. Do correct inaccurate information or conclusions. Listen to their questions and answer only what they ask.

Be sure you understand their question before you answer. Young children want simple, accurate answers. Providing only what the child asks is vital to avoid overwhelming them with too much information. Speak at the child’s developmental level and trust your gut about what they can handle.

4. Ask the child questions about their thoughts and feelings (e.g., “what do you think/feel about what you heard?” “what are you worried about?”). Acknowledge their feelings (don’t say, “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “you don’t feel that way”). Listen and encourage your child to express feelings without judging their feelings. Older children often act as if they are not bothered by these issues, so you may have to approach them directly to start the conversation. Play or art activities can help children express themselves, as well.

5. Limit exposure to specific information – e.g., media, adult conversations, intense family conflicts. Doing so is especially important for younger children.

6. Pay attention to your child’s behavior. Look for changes in eating and sleeping, acting younger than usual, increased complaints of headaches and stomachaches, a drop in grades, and increased moodiness. Seek professional help if these keep your child from doing what they need to do. Keep in close contact with your child’s teacher to know what teachers observe in school.

7.   Take care of yourself. Confide in other adults about the intensity of your fears/anxieties. Children pick up on cues from adults. We can ease children’s fears if we remain calm and continue our regular routines.

Created by: F. Lynne Merk, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Our behavioral health therapists, Vanessa Sinclair, LPCC-S, and Caitlin Geiser, LPCC-S, are available for our patients. They are available for an appointment if your child wants to talk with someone about their experience. They will then provide brief counseling support in our office or help refer to an outside agency if needed for more specific treatment. If you have a straightforward question, they can also answer these by phone or portal message. Contact our office to learn more at (513) 232-8100

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