Helping Children Cope After a Traumatic Event
In the wake of a traumatic event, your comfort, support and reassurance can make children feel safe, help them manage their fears, guide them through their grief, and help them recover in a healthy way. This guide from the Child Mind Institute was assembled by psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts who specialize in crisis situations. It offers simple tips on what to expect, what to do and what to look out for.
The Guide is available in English or Spanish languages.
Disasters and acts of violence are shocking to young people as well as to adults. Parents, teachers and caregivers should try to identify the signs of stress in children and be aware of ways to help children cope with crises.
From the Anne Arundel County Department of Health:
Recognizing Stress in Children
Children show signs of stress in the following ways:
- Physical complaints – listlessness, hyperactivity, stomachaches, loss of appetite or increased appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns. Reluctance to nap, go to bed, or to get out of bed in the morning
- Clinging behaviors (to parent or care provider)
- Increase in acting-out behaviors, either in school or at home (demanding, pouting, screaming)
- Reluctance to leave the house
- Reluctance to focus on the tasks at hand (homework, chores, dressing)
- Focusing on the tragic event repeatedly
Parents, teachers and caregivers can help children feel better
- Recognize and address their own fears and anxieties first. Children’s actions often reflect adults’ feelings.
- Be honest — explain in simple, age-appropriate terms what actually happened.
- Pay attention to your children’s fears and continually reassure them about their safety.
- Explain clearly why routines, such as outside recess, are changing.
- Allow extra time for routines, such as getting dressed and getting ready for school.
- Monitor TV and movie exposure, as violent shows and scary images may increase a child’s uneasiness. Limit your children’s viewing of news about tragic events.
- Allow children to act out feelings through drawings or role-playing.
- Involve children in positive, familiar activities to give them the reassurance and stability they need.
When tragedy strikes, it can be hard to deal with your own grief and distress while helping your children do the same. But there are things you can do to help kids handle scary news.
Many of our services for adults are also are available to children including the 24-hour Warmline at 410-768-5522, case management, outpatient therapy, residential programs, aftercare, supported housing, urgent care centers, the mobile crisis team, transportation help and financial assistance.
For information about any of these programs or services, contact 410-222-7858.
The Healthy Transitions program works with youth and young adults from ages 16-25 years old to help their transition into adulthood. The program provides supported employment assistance for individuals with behavioral health disorders to reach their independent living goals. For questions or more information about this program, please call 410-222-7858.
Anne Arundel County Department of Health’s Adolescent and Family Services (AFS) provides outpatient mental health and addiction services to County children and adolescents, ages 4 to 18, and their families.
Mental health services are offered by a team of psychiatrists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Licensed Clinical Professional counselors who evaluate children and adolescents experiencing emotional, behavioral and developmental problems. Diagnostic evaluations, medication monitoring, and individual, family and group therapy are available. All Department of Health clinicians are trauma trained and certified. Services are offered to children and adolescents who have Medical Assistance or who are eligible for Medical Assistance.
Recognizing that substance use and mental health concerns are often co-occurring, the AFS staff works with patients and their families to create holistic treatment plans that address their challenges related to substance abuse within the larger context of their lives. The staff provides information and services, including individual and family therapy, drug and alcohol assessments and urine screening. If a patient requires a higher level of care, appropriate referrals are made. Services are available to youth who have Medical Assistance or who are eligible for Medical Assistance. For families with private insurance seeking assessments only, fees are determined on a sliding scale based on the family income.
For more information about AFS, call 410-222-7858
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has introduced a Teen and Young Adult Hotline, available Monday-Friday, 10:00 AM-10:00 PM ET.
The NAMI Teen & Young Adult (T&YA) HelpLine offers a direct connection with another young person who shares similar experiences and is prepared to offer information, resources, and support to help with moving through difficult times to a better place.
The Safe Schools Maryland Tip Line is an anonymous reporting system used to report threats to the safety and/or well-being of students.
Students, parents, faculty, staff, and members of communities throughout Maryland may use this anonymous, app- and web-based reporting system to share their concerns, such as:
Mental health crises
School and community violence
Other issues affecting our Maryland students
Call the Safe Schools Maryland Tip Line at 1-833-632-7233
Parent CRAFT is an online video course that teaches parents the skills they need to meet the risks of substance abuse. This program provides ways to address adolescent and young adult substance abuse through highly engaging online video segments.
This project is free for parents and caregivers in Maryland through the National Center for School Mental Health and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, with funding from the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Components of Parent CRAFT include:
- Understanding teen’s triggers for use, maintaining factors, and potential negative long-term consequences.
- Learning communication skills for discussing concerns about teen’s drug use: use of understanding statements, accepting partial responsibility, and use of specific behavioral examples.
- Using positive reinforcement to influence and change behavior.
- Allowing for natural consequences to unfold (stopping enabling and protecting).
Suggesting professional help.
Parents and caregivers should be aware of what children see and hear online, who they meet, and what they share about themselves. Talk with your children, use tools to protect them, and keep an eye on their activities.
This article from Nemours Children's Health outlines risks and safety guidelines to help parents and caregivers take an active role in online activities.
The transition from adolescence to young adulthood can be difficult for all young adults. For those with mental health disabilities, the transition can be even more challenging. This handbook from Maryland Coalition of Families brings together information and tools to help navigate the transition process. It is written for families, but the intent is that with this information families can support their youth to self-advocate and succeed.
The handbook includes information on transition planning, post-secondary education and vocational options, Supplemental Security Income, and discussion of health care, housing and legal matters.