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Help and support after a traumatic event

Supporting children, young people and their families

A major incident such as a terrorist attack often causes distress, and people may experience a range of emotions that can vary in severity. In particular, children and young people may have questions that are difficult to answer. 

Emotions people may experience include:

  • Fear
  • Helplessness
  • Increased alertness for danger
  • Fatigue
  • Intrusive thoughts or images of the event
  • Nightmares
  • Avoidance of places that may remind you of the event 
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Memories of previous traumatic events

What is important is to recognise that these are normal responses to making sense of major events and whilst they can be incredibly distressing, many of these feelings are likely to reduce over time.

A variety of practical, emotional and social support from family and friends can be very powerful in helping to manage these difficult but normal experiences.

Some things that might help include:

  • share your feelings with someone you feel comfortable with (friends, family, co-workers)
  • talk at your own pace and as much as you feel it's useful
  • be willing to listen to others who may need to talk about how they feel
  • take time to cry if you need to – letting feelings out is helpful in the long run
  • ask for emotional and practical support from friends, family members, your community or religious centre
  • try to spend some time doing something that feels good and that you enjoy
  • try to return to everyday routines and habits. They can be comforting and help you feel less out of sorts. Look after yourself: eat and sleep well, exercise and relax 

Most people go on to recover but some people may require additional help and if experiences and feelings persist beyond 2-4 weeks then you should consider seeking further advice from your GP or local services.

The websites below offer further support and advice

 

How to help children and and young people

Parents and carers have an important role in supporting children and young people by providing emotional and practical support. However, it can be difficult if the adult has been affected by the same incident. In these circumstances it is advised that another trusted adult can offer support.

It is important to:

  • let them know that you understand their feelings
  • listen and give them the opportunity to talk if and when they want to
  • be consistent and reassuring
  • continue to keep routines and normal daily activities
  • keep in touch with the school or college about supporting a consistent approach
  • keep them from seeing too many of the frightening pictures of the event

Most young people will deal with the situation in time, but if their experiences and distress is severe or continue beyond 2-4 weeks then you can seek additional advice through your GP or your local services.

Find out about children and young people's mental health services.

The websites below offer further support and advice

Page last reviewed: 26/05/2017

Next review due: 26/05/2020