Tips for Supporting Children and Youth through Traumatic Events
Parents/guardians and family members play an important role in supporting children and youth with coping with distress arising from traumatic incidents, including those involving anti-Black racism.
Be reassuring: Children and youth take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives. Your reactions are important. Recognize that some children may be concerned about something bad happening to themselves, family or friends.
Be a good listener and observer: Let children and youth guide you to learn how concerned they are, or how much information they need. Let children and youth know it is okay to talk about what has been happening without putting any pressure on them to talk. Be available to answer their questions to the best of your ability. If they ask, provide an age-appropriate explanation of the event without sharing graphic details. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behavior or social interactions.
Reinforce coping and healing strategies: Let children and youth know it is okay to feel and express their emotions and explore ways to do this that can be helpful. Ask what has helped them express their feelings in the past to get through difficult situations. Remind them of the strengths you see in them. Reinforce the natural coping strategies and proactive steps that we can take to maintain safe and caring home and school environments.
Monitor the news: Images and footage can become overwhelming, especially if watched repetitively. Young children may not be able to distinguish between images on television and their personal reality. Older children and youth may choose to access media. Be available to discuss what they see and to help put it into perspective.
Highlight compassion and humanity: Large-scale events often generate a tremendous outpouring of caring and support from around the country and world. Focus on the help and hopeful thoughts and actions being offered to those affected.
Maintain as much continuity and normalcy as possible: Allowing children and youth to deal with their reactions is important but so is providing a sense of normalcy. Parents can help children and youth feel safe and secure by doing their best to provide a caring, calm and predictable routine at home.
Prioritize family time: Being with family is always important in difficult or sad times. Doing things together reinforces children's sense of stability and connectedness.
Ask for help if you or your children need it: Staying connected to your community and those with whom you feel safest can be extremely helpful. It may be important to seek additional support from a mental health professional to cope with overwhelming feelings.
Communicate with your school: Children and youth who are directly or indirectly impacted may be under a great deal of stress that can be disruptive to learning. Your school social work, psychology or other school support personnel can provide extra support.
Be aware of your own needs: Don't ignore your own feelings of worry, sadness, grief, and anger. Talking to friends, family members, faith, and/or community leaders, Elders and mental health counsellors can help. It is important to let your children know you are sad. You will be better able to support your children if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner. Get appropriate sleep, nutrition and exercise.
Managing Strong Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events: Tips for Families and Teachers