It’s normal to be concerned about the children in your life when a traumatic or violent event occurs.
Children’s mental health can be negatively impacted when directly exposed to these events, or just by seeing it in the media or hearing someone talk about it. Children may feel even more stress when violence occurs in school.
What are signs and symptoms that children may show after a stressful event?
- Difficulty sleeping
- Intrusive thoughts and difficulty focusing
- Withdrawal, decrease in socialization
- Using substances
- Desensitization to violence or violent behavior
These signs and symptoms are normal following a stressful event. However, if they last for more than two weeks or continue to get worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or grief can occur.
What should I do to support my child?
- Don’t wait to talk to children about current events. Unfortunately, they may hear about it from others or through the media. For ideas on how to have this conversation, read more here.
- Monitor media use and exposure to content about the traumatic event. If you want to learn more about how media violence impacts children and how you can help, read more here.
- When scary events are happening, keeping routines can help children feel safe. Despite the stress you may feel as a family, it is important to keep the same schedule and rules as usual. This includes returning to school and community events.
- Social connections can protect mental health during times of stress. Encourage children to spend quality time with friends and family. You can practice self-care and engage in fun activities together for distraction.
- How a parent copes following a traumatic experience is related to how children will react. Remember to take care of yourself too and model these positive behaviors. Here are some ideas.
References or additional resources:
Garbarino, J., Bradshaw, C. P., & Vorrasi, J. A. (2002). Mitigating the effects of gun violence on children and youth. The Future of children, 73-85.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2020). News and Children.
National Association of School Psychologists (2016). Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers (nasponline.org)