Helping children during a time of crisis
Story contact: Sara Gable, Ph.D., College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Children look to adults for reassurance and guidance on how to react
during a time of crisis or tragedy. What
adults say and do can help distance children from the sense of threat,
help them work through their emotions, and maintain or regain a sense
Main message: Be a positive role model.
What adults can do:
- Model calm and control.
- Reassure children that they are safe.
- Remind children that trustworthy people are in charge.
- Let children know it is okay to feel upset.
- Attend to children's emotional state.
- Look for children at greater risk.
- Tell children the truth.
- Stick to the facts.
- Keep your explanations age appropriate.
- Monitor your own stress level.
- Monitor or restrict viewing of media coverage, especially images of
violent scenes or the aftermath.
What schools can do:
- Assure children that they are safe.
- Maintain structure and stability within the schools.
- Have your crisis response plan in place.
- Provide teachers and parents with information.
- Have teachers provide information directly to their students.
- Have school psychologists and counselors available.
- Be aware of students who may have recently experienced a personal tragedy.
- Know what community resources are available.
- Allow time for age-appropriate classroom discussion and activities.
- Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety, fear or anger to mental health counselors.
- Provide an outlet for students' desire to help.
- Monitor or restrict viewing of media coverage, especially images of violent scenes or the aftermath.
For more detailed information and tips, visit the National Association of School Psychologists website at Nasponline.org.
National Association of School Psychologists (2003). Helping Children Cope in Unsettling Times: Tips for Parents and Teachers. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists
Last update: Tuesday, December 18, 2012