What Parents/Caregivers Can Do to Help Children Cope

Children often react to stressful events differently than adults. How the child in your life reacts will depend on their age, their previous experiences, and how the child typically copes with stress.

Signs of Stress in Preschool-Age Children:

  • Crying and/or screaming
  • Afraid to be separated by parents or caregivers
  • Not eating and/or losing weight
  • Having nightmares

Signs of Stress in Elementary School Age Children:

  • Feeling guilt or shame
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Not sleeping well

Signs of Stress in Middle and High School-Age Children:

  • Feeling depressed or alone
  • Harming themselves
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

What Parents/Caregivers Can Do to Help

  • Caregivers can help children by staying calm, being patient, and reassuring children. Let them know you are taking steps to keep them safe. Talk to children about what is happening in a way they can understand. Keep it simple and appropriate to the child’s age.
  • Provide children with opportunities to talk about what they are experiencing, share their concerns, and ask questions. Encourage them to share through playing, drawing, or writing down how they are feeling.
  • Help children find age-appropriate actions they can take related to the event. For example, have them help an older family member or friend feel connected through a phone call or virtual video call (FaceTime, Skype).
  • Consistent routines and schedules, such as bedtime, teeth brushing, and mealtimes can give children comfort.

Find more resources and learn more about how to support children of all ages by visiting the links below:

CDC’s Helping Children Cope website: https://www.cdc.gov/childrenindisasters/helping-children-cope.html

NCTSN’s Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope website: https://www.nctsn.org/resources/parent-caregiver-guide-to-helping-families-cope-with-the-coronavirus-disease-2019