Skip to main content
Traumatic Events

Helping children cope with traumatic events


Schools are the most important places in a community for an educator or student to receive support when a crisis occurs. Schools provide a familiar environment where the many needs of grieving students and faculty can be met in one place. Administrators and educators need to be prepared to deal with any crisis that might arise; such preparation will better equip them to respond to students' emotional needs in the wake of a crisis. These resources may be of help to you in helping your students cope with fear and trauma.

Responding to traumatic events

Managing emotional reactions to traumatic events
Parents and teachers can help youngsters manage their feelings by both modeling healthy coping strategies and closely monitoring their own emotional state and that of the children in their care.

Identifying seriously traumatized children
Following exposure to crisis events it is not unusual for children to display symptoms of acute distress. In most cases these reactions are temporary and gradually lessen. This handout describes how to identify severely traumatized children so as to better ensure they get timely access to the professional counseling they will require.

Talking to children about violence (includes translations in multiple languages)
High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears. For parents who do not speak English, this resource includes translations to multiple languages.

A national tragedy: helping students cope
Whenever a national tragedy occurs, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened. Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react—this guide will help.

15 Tips for talking with children about school violence
In the wake of school violence, many families and educators may have questions about how to help children cope with the tragedy, or what to say to reassure them. This resource from Colorín Colorado includes tips in English and Spanish, as well as additional recommended resources.

How to talk about the connecticut shooting, from the director of the national center for school crisis and bereavement
As the nation watches the reports of the recent Connecticut school shooting, many may find themselves feeling anxious and sad. David Schonfeld, MD, provides advice, in English and Spanish, to adults on talking with children about the way they are feeling.

Preventative measures

School violence: prevention tools and resources
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers a number of tools and resources designed to help state and local education agencies and schools promote safety and help schools be safe places for students to learn.

Early warning, timely response: a guide to safe schools
An early warning guide to help adults reach out to troubled children quickly and effectively, developed by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.

Safeguarding our children: an action guide
Practical steps schools can take to design and implement school safety plans to reduce violence in our schools and help children get access to the services they need. Developed as a follow up to "Early Warning, Timely Response."

Promoting safe schools
Help cultivate a safe and tolerant space in your hallways, classrooms, buses and beyond.

Helping students with special needs

Coping with crisis—helping children with special needs
When a crisis event occurs it can cause strong and deeply felt reactions in adults and children, especially those children with special needs. This resource provides advice and considerations in helping students with special needs cope after a traumatic event.

Sadness for sandy hook
Use this resource to provide graphic support for students with disabilities and very young children so that they can hear, read and understand they are safe. If children want to expand on each sentence or thought, use vocabulary they know and understand to re-state the content, for example: I am okay. You are okay. We are okay.

Helping students express their feelings

How do you feel?
Pictures and words to aid discussion about feelings. (Grades K-4)

Let's think about feelings
Images of people displaying a variety of emotions, with questions for the class to read and respond to. (Grades K-1)

Display of feelings
Images that correspond to various feelings. (Grades 2-5)

What is bereavement and how does it feel
An information sheet for students about bereavement. (Grades 7-9)

Circles of control
We all worry; but we do not always have control over what happens to us. In this resource students categorize various fears according to level of control over them. (Grades 8-10)

Discussing fear
Students consider what fear is, and how to overcome it. (Grades 9-10)

Similarities and differences exercise
This whole class interactive activity has students respond to a series of "yes/no" statements dealing with respect and violence. It is meant to show students that they are more similar than different and inspire respectful non-violent interaction in the classroom. (Grades 3-9)