Helping kids (and adults) cope with traumatic events

Viewpoint , Health Care
Coping with traumatic events
Coping with traumatic events
An adult and an adolescent sit on the floor of a living room. They appear to be engaged in a serious conversation.
Taking children's worries seriously and providing reassurance can help create resilience in families. (Getty Images)

We are in the middle of a pandemic, severe social unrest and profound division at the very moment we need unity in our country. Rates of depression and anxiety are escalating as many Americans struggle to cope with a list of profoundly troubling challenges to meeting their basic needs (e.g., housing, food etc) along with the toxic division in our society.

Resilience and coping are highly influenced by secure relationships where trust and the ability to consider one another’s perspective are key. As individuals, we have limited ability to change what is happening on a national level, but we do have the ability to create resilience in our family and in our social circles. Our children need this from us as they take cues about safety and the future from parents and caregivers. 

These online resources include options for talking to people about your questions, needs and urgent concerns. 

Some specific tips for parents coping with difficult events: 

Look for signs that a child is struggling to cope with their emotions. For young children, this includes an increased fear of separation, regression of skills (bed-wetting, not wanting to dress themselves), hyperactivity or anger. For older children, signs include increased isolation, irritability and seeming withdrawn or uninterested in school and friends. If you see these issues, talk to your child and seek assistance if necessary.

Parents strive to make the world as safe as possible for their children. The convergence of recent awful events has felt very overwhelming, partly because we do not feel a sense of control and the impacts are real. While we can’t control natural disasters, violence and the pandemic on a large scale, we can control how we express love and compassion on a daily basis in our families and in daily moments with others.  We can help our children center themselves with what is personally important, and we can find reassurance through secure relationships with others.   


Ajit Jetmalani M.D.

Ajit Jetmalani, M.D., is the Joseph Professor of psychiatry and head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, OHSU School of Medicine.

Tracy Brawley
Senior Media Relations Specialist