Helping Children After a Crisis

Life gets scary sometimes: here are tips for helping children after a crisis.

Helping Children After a Crisis

Helping Children After a Crisis

When children go through a crisis, they need special kinds of support. In my job as a counselor, I sometimes need to help young ones deal with crises.

Our world seems to have so many catastrophes and crises happening. In a child’s eyes, a crisis might be something as dramatic as a huge fire, and earthquake or a tornado, or as a debilitating as a severe illness, or as heartbreaking as family disintegration.

Children are dramatically impacted by any crisis. However, there are things a parent can do to help. Here is a list of how children at various stages may show that they feel they are in crisis and what to do to help.

Here are some things a parent might notice during and after a crisis:

Birth to 2 Years                                                                                   

  • Interference with normal feeding pattern
  • Difficulty with establishing a sleep schedule
  • Difficulty establishing trust
  • Increased crying and clinging
  • Language delays
  • Separation anxiety
  • Difficulty with toilet training

3 to 5 Years

  • Severe temper tantrums
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Fantasies of reconciliation (or gaining back what was lost)
  • May try to act more responsible than they are
  • Separation anxiety
  • Problems in groups
  • Vague sense of guilt
  • Nightmares

6 to 9 Years

  • Difficulty keeping up in school or immersion in schoolwork
  • Denial of negative feelings
  • Peer conflicts
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Guilt
  • May hide facts from peers (shame)
  • Sometimes the ability to discuss feelings with an outsider
  • Somatic complaints (aches, pains)
  • Worries about the future


  • May isolate themselves
  • Aggression with peers or siblings
  • Somatic complaints
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Negative attention-seeking


  • Anger displayed in tone of voice, noncompliance
  • Isolation
  • Peer conflicts
  • Feelings of guilt, powerlessness
  • Performance anxiety
  • Substance use
  • Behavior problems
  • Eating problems
  • Seeking approval from adults outside the family
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Feelings of abandonment or rejection
  • Depression

How to Help

Babies- 5 Years

  • Give lots of hugs
  • Find new routines
  • Make sure the child’s daily needs are met
  • Find ways to make laughter happen
  • Provide coloring and finger-painting opportunities (to those old enough)

Ages 6 Through Teens

  • Give hugs and physical presence
  • Find new routines
  • Make sure the child’s daily needs are met
  • Find ways to make laughter happen
  • Talk about it (allow him/her to tell the story of what happened or is happening)- MANY times!
  • Seek help if it seems that the child is not bouncing back
  • Provide art and music opportunities
  • Teach relaxation techniques (deep breathing and exercise to reduce stress levels). Here’s a how-to freebie.
  • Provide positive diversions (social time with positive friends and family)
  • Create happy experiences (do new things together)

Prayer Journal 1

Of course, for all children (and all people) the most powerful thing we can do it pray. While we might not understand all that happens, we all need His love and help.

The second most important thing to do is to make sure that as parent, you have enough emotional support for yourself. Turn to friends, family and church for love and support.

BTW- Being emotionally prepared to help requires being spiritually prepared. If you would like some encouragement and ideas for building your prayer life, take a look at our e-prayer journal.

Helping Children After a Crisis

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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