Beyond Freud

A dose of common sense.

Helping Parents Help Kids Face Trauma

Listening is most helpful in time of stress and crisis.



By Leon Hoffman, M.D.

All people respond to trauma and stress (such as hearing about a gun shooting) in their own individual ways.

Practitioners who have learned the art of listening are most helpful to people in time of stress and crisis.


1.   Pre-school children: For young children, how adults, especially their parents, react to and deal with stresses is most important. Parents are their protectors.

2.    School-age children: Children of school-age do more things on their own. During times of stress it is important to try to continue their normal routine.

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3.    Adolescents: During times of stress teens may become too dependent or too reckless. Parents need to be on the lookout for risk-taking behavior (e.g., drugs).


1.    They are role models and need to communicate that children will be cared for.

2.    They need to listen to what children ask (little children may draw, older ones may ask more questions, adolescents may feel at a loss).

3.    They need to try to be patient and reassure children who ask questions over and over. Shy children could be asked to describe what others think.

4.    Adults' worries about future incidents heighten every one's anxiety. It is important not to expose children to too much news, especially TV, because fears, especially children's, are made worse by the repetitive warnings and pictures.

5.    You can stress to your children that the authorities are doing what needs to be done to make sure that all of us will be safe. As a matter of fact, the general public doesn't hear about the successes, only the failures by intelligence.

6.    During times of stress, anger and irritability are common emotions in everyone. Help your children express it in appropriate ways. Reassure them that they are not the cause of your irritability.

7.    When stressed, "regressions" are normal (acting younger than one's age). If symptoms are worrisome, professional help may be needed.


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Leon Hoffman, M.D. is the Co-director of the Pacella Parent Child Center, New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.


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