Resources for Parents and Caregivers



Welcome, parents and caregivers to your section of the NCTSN website!
You can play an important role in helping your children and teenagers recover from traumatic events. We have designed these pages for birth parents, adoptive parents, resource/foster parents, grandparents, caregivers, and all others who care for children and teens.

We are using the words "child" or "children" to include adolescents. Although teens may not think of themselves as children, parents and caregivers most often refer those of any age (toddler, school-age, teen, youth, adult) in our care as children. No matter how old they get, they are always our children!

The more you learn about how traumatic events affect children, the more you will understand the reasons for your kids' behaviors, and emotions, and the better prepared you will be to help them cope. When you let your children know that you and other caring adults are working to keep them safe, that you are there to support them, and that there are people who can help them with what they are feeling, most children who have traumatic stress can recover and go on to live healthy and productive lives. To learn more and access resources on families and trauma, click here.

What You Will Find in These Sections

  • Definitions of trauma, traumatic events, and traumatic stress
  • Answers to commonly asked questions about child traumatic stress
  • Signs and symptoms of child traumatic stress
  • Suggestions for ways to cope with child traumatic stress
  • Advice on how and where to find help
  • Information on evidence-based treatments (scientifically proven practices) that can assist families in helping children recover from child traumatic stress
  • Links to resources to help children and families better understand what they are feeling when they (or someone close to them) has experienced a traumatic event
  • Support to help children cope with their traumatic experiences

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Trauma and Traumatic Events

What Is Trauma?
People often use the word “trauma” to refer to a traumatic event. A trauma is a scary, dangerous, or violent event that can happen to anyone. Not all dangerous or scary events are traumatic events, however.

What Is a Traumatic Event?
A traumatic event is a scary, dangerous, or violent event. An event can be traumatic when we face or witness an immediate threat to ourselves or to a loved one, often followed by serious injury or harm. We feel terror, helplessness, or horror at what we are experiencing and at our inability to stop it or protect ourselves or others from it.

Often people feel bad after a trauma. Even though we try hard to keep children safe, dangerous events still happen. This danger can come from outside of the family (such as a natural disaster, car accident, school shooting, or community violence) or from within the family, such as a serious injury, domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one.     

What Is Child Traumatic Stress?
When a child has had one or more traumatic events, and has reactions that continue and affect his or her daily life long after the events have ended, we call it Child Traumatic Stress. Children may react by becoming very upset for long periods, depressed, or anxious. They may show changes in the way they behave, or in their eating and sleeping habits; have aches and pains; have difficulties at school, problems relating to others, or not want to be with others or take part in activities. Older children may use drugs or alcohol, behave in risky ways, or engage in unhealthy sexual activity.

Do Traumatic Events Happen Often?
The number of traumatic events varies. For example, between 25% and 43% of children are exposed to sexual abuse; between 39% and 85% of children witness community violence. And more than half of children report experiencing a traumatic event by age 16 (Presidential Task Force on PTSD and Trauma in Children and Adolescents, 2008).

Fortunately, even when children experience a traumatic event, they don’t always develop traumatic stress. Many factors contribute to symptoms including whether they have experienced trauma in the past (see section on Understanding Trauma for more information).

What Experiences Might Be Traumatic?  

When children have been in situations where they feared for their lives, believed that they would be injured, witnessed violence, or tragically lost a loved one, they may show signs of child traumatic stress.

Need Immediate Help?

If you think your child has child traumatic stress and you need immediate help, please see the NCTSN "About Us" page at


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Understanding Trauma


Parents want to protect their children from scary, dangerous, or violent events, but it is not always possible for them to protect their children from danger. After one or more traumatic events, many children do not just forget and move on. Those who develop reactions that continue and affect their daily lives—even after the traumatic events have ended— suffer from child traumatic stress. 

Not all children who experience a traumatic event will develop symptoms of child traumatic stress. Children’s reactions can vary depending on their age, developmental level, trauma history, and other factors.

What makes it likely that my child will develop child traumatic stress after a traumatic event?

Risk factors for developing child traumatic stress include:

Severity of the Event
How serious was the event? How badly were your children or someone they love physically hurt? Did they or someone they love need to go to the hospital? Were the police involved? Were your children separated from their caregivers? Were they interviewed by a principal, police officer, or counselor? Did a friend or family member die?

Amount of Destruction Seen/Distance from Trauma Event
Were your children actually at the place where the event occurred? Did they see the event happen to someone else or were they a victim? Did your child watch the event on television? Did they hear a loved one talk about what happened?

Caregivers Reactions
Did you believe that your child was telling the truth? Did you take your child’s reactions seriously? Did you respond to your child’s needs? Did you do your best to protect your child and make him or her feel safe? How did you cope with the event?

Exposure to More than One Traumatic Event in the Past
In general, children exposed to one traumatic event are less likely to develop traumatic stress reactions. Children continually exposed to traumatic events are more likely to develop traumatic stress reactions.

Children, Family and Community
The culture, race, and ethnicity of children, their families, and their communities can be a protective factor, meaning that children and families have qualities and/or resources that help lessen or eliminate risk and protect them against long-term harm. One of these protective factors can be the child’s cultural identity. Culture often has a positive impact on how children, their families, and their communities respond, recover, and heal from a traumatic experience. However, culture also can increase a child’s risk for traumatic stress symptoms. To learn more and access resources on families and trauma, click here.

Signs of Traumatic Stress

What are the signs that a child may be experiencing child traumatic stress?

The signs of traumatic stress are different in each child. And young children react differently than older children.

What is a trauma reminder?     
At times, children may feel anxious, nervous, or scared when they encounter places, people, sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that remind them of past traumatic experiences, even years afterwards. These trauma reminders can bring on distressing mental images, thoughts, and emotional/physical reactions. Common reminders (also called triggers) include: sudden loud noises, destroyed buildings, the smell of fire, ambulance or police sirens, locations where they experienced the trauma, encountering people with disabilities, funerals, anniversaries of the trauma, and television or radio news about the event. Your child may not be consciously aware of these reminders, but it is important for you and others to anticipate reminders and to help the child recognize and learn how to cope with them. As parents/caregivers you can let your child know how much you would like to help them whenever they are reminded of their experiences or losses. It is helpful to be open about how you yourself are also still affected by reminders. As a family, you can then offer each other emotional support through physical comfort, understanding, and reassurance.


Resource Parents and Child Traumatic Stress

Many children who are or who have been in the foster care system have lived through traumatic experiences. Understanding how trauma affects your foster or adoptive children can help you make sense of your child’s sometimes baffling feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.  Understanding why your child behaves the way he or she does will better prepare you to help him or her cope with the effects of trauma.  Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: A Workshop for Resource Parents (RPC) is a PowerPoint-based training curriculum designed to be taught by a mental health professional and a resource parent as co-facilitators. It gives resource parents practical tools to help their children move forward from their traumatic pasts, to recognize and reduce the impact of their children's traumas on themselves, and to seek useful support from others. To learn more and access resources on families and trauma, click here.

Additional Information and Resources

For more information on child traumatic stress, please visit our trauma definition pages and resources:

Need Immediate Help?

If you think your child has child traumatic stress and you need immediate help, please see the NCTSN "About Us" page at



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Parents Can Help

Parents Can Help

Children can and do recover from traumatic events. As parents, you play an important role in helping your children and your family cope with the stress reactions that can follow these events. Try to maintain a balanced perspective. On one hand, do take your child’s reactions seriously. Don’t say that “It wasn’t so bad.” Don't think “If we don’t make a big deal, she will forget all about it.” On the other hand, don’t decide that the trauma was so bad that your child will never recover. Instead, try to maintain a hopeful belief that your child will heal and that your family will recover from the event as well.

Family members may each react differently to a traumatic event that a child has experienced. Even in the closest of families, it is sometimes hard to remember that each of your family members may have a different reaction to a traumatic event. Reactions will differ, depending not only on the family member's age, developmental level, and own trauma history, but also on his or her relationship with the child and personal exposure to the event. For example, one may have shared the child’s experience, another may have witnessed it, still another may have heard about it after the fact. While all family members may be upset, only some will have posttraumatic stress reactions themselves; each will take a different amount of time to recover from the experience.

While your world may feel changed forever after a traumatic event, you, your children and family members, and your community are more resilient than you might imagine. You do have a great ability to heal and return to feeling “normal” again. To learn more and access resources on families and trauma, click here.

What can my family do to recover?
You can help your family recover by doing the following:

  • Be patient. There is no correct timetable for healing. Some children will recover quickly. Others recover more slowly. Try not to push your child to “just get over it.” Instead, reassure him or her that they do not need to feel guilty or bad about any feelings or thoughts.
  • Explain to your child that he or she is not responsible for what happened. Children often blame themselves for events, even those completely out of their control.
  • Assure your child that he or she is safe. Talk about the measures you are taking to keep him or her safe at home and about what measures his/her school is taking to ensure his or her safety at school.
  • Maintain regular home (mealtime, bedtime) and school routines to support the process of recovery. Make sure your child continues to go to school and stays in school.
  • Learn about the common reactions that children have to traumatic events.
  • Take time to think about your own experience of your child’s traumatic event and any past traumatic events you may have experienced. Your own trauma history and your feelings about your child's trauma event will influence how you react.
  • Consult a qualified mental health professional if your child’s distress continues for several weeks. Ask your child’s primary care physician or school for a referral to a mental health provider who has experience with child traumatic stress.

When family members care for and support each other, they can often overcome the fears and stress of trauma. Some families grow stronger after a traumatic event and are even able to help others in need. Of the many ways to cope and heal from traumatic stress, many families count on these:

  • Community support
  • Spiritual beliefs
  • Friends and other families

Even with the support of family members and others, some children do not heal. When distress continues for several weeks, a mental health professional trained in trauma care can help the whole family cope with the effects of traumatic events. Finding the right professional, however, can be confusing. The NCTSN's webpages  "Finding Help" and "About this Web Site" can guide you to where to begin, whom to call, and what questions to ask. Please note that the NCTSN cannot respond to questions about your specific family situation, diagnose or treat your family members, refer you to professional resources in your area, or provide clinical opinions.

There is no correct timetable for recovery. Some children will recover quickly. Others recover more slowly. Some families get better with time and the support of others. As a general rule, if your child's reactions (nightmares, recurrent thoughts, fears) have been getting worse instead of better, or your family is having ongoing distress, crises, or trouble meeting your children’s needs, you should seek a referral for a qualified mental health professional (psychologist, clinical social worker, psychiatrist) with experience in assessing and treating child traumatic stress or posttraumatic stress disorder. Going without help can have long-lasting negative consequences. Fortunately, however, entering treatment can have concrete, beneficial results that will help your child and your family feel better, grow stronger, and recover.

To learn more and access resources on families and trauma, click here.

Need Immediate Help?

If you think your child has child traumatic stress and you need immediate help, please see the NCTSN "About Us" page at



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Trauma Treatment


When Should I Ask for Help from a Mental Health Provider?
There is no correct timetable for recovery. Some children/teens will recover quickly. Other children recover more slowly. Some families get better with time and the support of others. For families having ongoing distress, crises, or trouble meeting their children’s needs, trauma treatment from a mental health provider (i.e., psychotherapists such as psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists) is available to help your family seek safety, grow stronger, and recover.  Not getting help can have long-lasting consequences but, fortunately, entering treatment can have concrete beneficial results.



Getting Help

What kind of mental health provider do we need?
Many families first discuss their concerns with a family physician, school counselor, or clergy member, who may refer them to a specialist such as a child or adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist. Ask your pediatrician, family physician, school counselor, or clergy member for a referral to a mental health professional. Today, many family practitioners work with a team of providers, including mental health providers, and can refer you to someone they know and trust. Ask close family members and friends for their recommendations, especially if their child or adolescent has had a good experience with psychotherapy.

When seeking help for your child, you will want to try to find a mental health provider who meets these requirements:

  • Has experience in helping families overcome traumatic stress
  • Offers services near your home or is easy for you to get to
  • Uses evidence-based practices (EBP), that is, treatments proven to help all members of the family:
    • Feel safe
    • Learn about trauma and its effects
    • Cope with difficulties caused by the trauma
    • Recognize and build on the family and family members’ strengths
    • Talk about ways to get the family back on track

How do I choose a therapist or counselor who's right for my family?
There are many types of mental health providers, including psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and licensed counselors. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications because they are physicians. Mental health professionals who are not physicians can provide therapy and often work with psychiatrists and family physicians to ensure that their patients can receive any needed medications. Psychologists are skilled in evaluation and in various forms of intelligence, personality, and psychological testing. What's important is that you select a provider with appropriate training and qualifications. Once you have the name or names of several mental health professionals in your area, call and interview them over the phone to determine which is the best match for you and your family.

What can my family expect from therapy?
There are many approaches to outpatient psychotherapy, which may occur in individual, group, or family sessions. Treatment for your child may involve the following:

  • Talking with your child or having him or her draw or play with toys in order to get a better understanding of what he or she is experiencing, feeling, or thinking
  • Asking about your child's experience of the traumatic event, and other areas in his or her life, such as how the child is getting along with family, friends, teachers, and other students in school
  • Assessing your child's strengths, skills, and talents, as well as problems
  • Engaging with your child (while taking into account age and emotional maturity) to try to understand the traumatic experience, including the ways it has affected daily life
  • Teaching a variety of evidence-based treatment techniques such as relaxation methods and problem-solving skills, and including, in some cases, interventions with the school and family or referral for medication

The goal of treatment is to help your child to address feelings of helplessness and worries over safety and to identify helpful thoughts and actions. Because trauma can interrupt a child's normal development, therapy helps in reducing the symptoms of child traumatic stress, as well as offering your child support and guidance to return to age-appropriate activities. Your child’s therapist will probably ask for your participation and cooperation, because these are extremely important to the recovery of your children and the well-being of your family.

Many effective treatments include cognitive behavioral principles:

  • Education about the impact of trauma
  • Helping children and their parents establish or reestablish a sense of safety
  • Techniques for dealing with overwhelming emotional reactions
  • An opportunity to talk about the traumatic experience in a safe, accepting environment
  • Involvement, when possible, of primary caregivers in the healing process
Evidence-Based Practices

What Are Evidence-Based Practices (EBP)?
Not all treatments will help your child. Researchers constantly evaluate treatments to find the ones that work best. Providers who use treatments based on scientific research are using what is called "evidence-based practices." EBPs have been proven to work.

Because not all treatments work for everyone, we recommend you read the following sections of our National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) website that discuss the treatments and options that we have found most effective: trauma-focused treatment and evidence-based treatment.

NCTSN webpage: Treatments That Work
Here you will learn about trauma-focused and evidence-based practices (EBP) for children, teens, and families experiencing traumatic stress.

NCTSN webpage: National Child Traumatic Stress Network Empirically Supported Treatments and Promising Practices
Here you will find fact sheets that describe the treatments and trauma-informed approaches that our NCTSN centers use and recommend. All have the goal of reducing the effects of traumatic events on children and adolescents.

NCTSN webpage: The Promise of Trauma-focused Therapy for Childhood Sexual Abuse (2007)
Here you will find information about the effects of child sexual abuse, the important role parents/caretakers play in treatment, and the need for children to learn specific skills to cope with what has happened to them.

NCTSN webpage: Questions and Answers About Child Sexual Abuse Treatment (2007) (PDF)
Here you can read a Q&A with sexual abuse expert Judith A. Cohen, MD, medical director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children & Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital and NCTSN member.

Finding Help

Tips for Finding Help
This is an easily printable one-page sheet of NCTSN recommendations on seeking help.

Get Help Now
If you think your children’s reaction to a traumatic event is interfering with his or her daily life and you need immediate help, please see the NCTSN "About Us" page at


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Page Contents:

All of the resources on this page are free and downloadable. You may prefer printed materials instead.  When you see this icon , it indicates that a paper copy of that resource can be ordered and delivered anywhere in the United States. In some cases, color versions are available.


General Resources


Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event 
A traumatic event can be something that happens in nature (such as a flood or earthquake). It can be something one person does to another person (such as shooting or hitting someone). When very young children see such an event—or if someone hurts them—they may not be able to tell you how they feel. Teenagers may not want to tell you. Even months later, a child or teen may still be scared or sad. This page (1) explains how children of different ages may react to a traumatic event, and (2) gives parents and caregivers ways to help their children understand and get better.

Early Childhood Trauma (2010) (PDF)
Early childhood trauma usually means a trauma that happens to a baby or a child under age six. This page (1) explains some of the difficulties that can result from early childhood trauma, (2) describes symptoms to look for in your child, (3) lists ways to help protect your child, (4) provides ideas for helping your children and family get better faster, and (5) lists treatments for young children.

Información en Español
La NCTSN ha creado los siguientes recursos que detallan como ayudar a los padres y a las personas al cuidado de los niños para que puedan entender y responder al Estrés Traumático Infantil.

Physical Punishment: What Parents Should Know (2009) (PDF)
Many parents believe that it is OK to punish their children by hitting them when they do things that are upsetting, wrong, or mean. This fact sheet gives parents (1) facts about how punishments can harm children and increase bad behavior, and (2) tips on effective ways to teach children to behave well.

Parenting in a Challenging World
"What can my family do to heal after a child has experienced a traumatic event?" "Will my child recover?" "How have other people coped?" Parents and caregivers face questions and cares like these after a child has experienced a traumatic event. These interactive pages look at those and other concerns with the help of scenes from the documentary film, Surviving September 11th: The Story of One New York Family.

Raising Well-Behaved Kids: What Parents Should Know (2009) (PDF) 
There is no one right way to bring up children who behave well. This fact sheet gives parents more effective ways to have well-behaved children, including how to (1) cool down in intense situations, (2) use great communication strategies (such as how to time your requests for best results), (3) increase cooperation with praise, and (4) set limits on problem behavior with consequences.

Trauma and Your Family (2011) (PDF)
A traumatic event is a scary, dangerous, or violent event. Feeling bad after a trauma can happen to anyone following such an event. Some examples of traumatic events include: a car accident, a death, a house fire, and seeing a family member hurt a child or adult. This brochure provides a list of some of the signs that can show that a person is feeling very upset—for example, being tired or afraid or angry or sad most of the time. It also shows how to feel safe again and heal from the trauma.

Understanding Child Traumatic Stress: A Guide for Parents (2008) (PDF)
Entendimiento del Estrés Traumático Infantil: Una Guia para Padres
This resource provides examples of signs your children may be suffering from trauma and ways to take care of them so that they can recover.

Understanding Traumatic Stress in Adolescents (2007) (PDF)
This brochure is for professionals who treat teenagers that have experienced trauma, are using drugs and/or alcohol, or all three. It describes how some types of stresses are connected. This includes certain problems at home and in school, and being reminded of a trauma by seeing or hearing something similar to it. It also shows how understanding these links will lead to better choices when caring for teenagers.

What Is Child Traumatic Stress?
Many children will experience trauma during their lives, and some of them will develop traumatic stress. Learn more about what trauma is, why it occurs, and what to look for in your child after a trauma.

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Childhood Traumatic Grief


Childhood Traumatic Grief Additional ResourcesResources for Caregivers (2010) (PDF)
This sheet is for parents and caregivers of children who are grieving from trauma. It includes a list of books, as well as a video and two games.

Coping with Unconfirmed Death: Tips for Caregivers of Children and Teens (2009) (PDF)
Sometimes a member of a child’s family or other important person in a child's life is believed to be dead, but the body has not been found. A few examples are people lost in war, earthquakes, and floods. In some ways, this “not knowing” can be almost as horrible as if the child or teen knew for sure that the person was dead. This resource provides ideas about how to help young people deal with their feelings (without forgetting about the person who is missing) and help them feel safe again.

Helping Military Children with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Parents (2014) (PDF)
This resource offers information on how children dealing with trauma and grief responses may feel and how you can help them.

Helping Teens with Traumatic Grief: Tips for Caregivers (2014) (PDF)
This resource describes how teens may feel when struggling with the death of someone close and what caregivers can do to help.

It's OK to Remember: Understanding Childhood Traumatic Grief (2005) (Video)
This video shows how a family can get through terrible pain and gradually heal. Members of the family talk about the traumatic grief that one daughter feels after the sudden death of her sister. The video provides tips to help parents, teachers, children’s doctors, and others who care for children to understand and help them deal with their grief.

Sibling Death and Childhood Traumatic Grief: Information for Families (2009) (PDF)
The death of anyone dear to them can be sad and very difficult for a child or teen. But when a brother or sister dies, the family faces special issues and problems. Afterward, children may behave in new ways (such as crying more than usual, having trouble sleeping, being angry and fearful, wanting to be alone). This brochure gives families a list of these types of reactions to grief, as well as tips on ways to help the grieving child and ways the parents or caregivers can deal with their own grief. There is also a list of books on the topic, and links to three websites and a video.

Additional Resources on Sibling Death and Child Traumatic Grief—Resources for Caregivers (2010) (PDF)
This is a list of books and a video for parents and caregivers of children who have lost a brother or sister. 

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Children's Books


Ready to Remember: Jeremy’s Journey of Hope and Healing (2011) (PDF)
This tells the story of what happens to a 10-year-old boy after the death of his father. Jeremy is having many problems at school and at home. With a lot of beautiful drawings the book shows Jeremy and his family as they get help and how they can now enjoy happy memories together. There is a guide for caregivers iwith ideas for how to use this book to talk with their children and family about grief in the back of the book.

Trinka and Sam: The Rainy Windy Day (2008) (PDF)
Trinka y Juan en un día de mucho viento y lluvia (2010) (PDF)
This story helps young children and their families begin to talk about feelings and worries they may have after a hurricane hits their neighborhood. Trinka and Sam are mice, and when it begins to rain and get windy, they become scared and worried. The rain and wind remind them of the hurricane that came before. The story explains why they felt that way and how their parents help them to talk about their feelings. This makes Trinka and Sam feel safer. There is a guide for parents in the back of the book, offering ways that they can use the story to help their children.

Trinka and Sam: The Day the Earth Shook (2011) (PDF)
This is another story about the two mice Trinka and Sam. An earthquake shakes the neighborhood where they live. Trinka and Sam feel a lot of different things when they see what has happened to their neighborhood after the earthquake. The book shows how Trinka and Sam’s parents help them talk about their feelings and feel safer, and it provides a guide to ways parents can use the story to help their own children. The storybook is also available in Japanese.



Domestic Violence

Children and Domestic Violence Fact Sheet Series (2013) (PDF) The NCTSN Domestic Violence Collaborative Group announces a new series of fact sheets created for parents whose children have been affected by domestic violence. The set of 10 fact sheets gets to the heart of the experiences and needs of these children and families, and offers education in support of their resilience and recovery.
This six page Q&A answers questions many people ask about how violence in the family can affect children, including (1) how many children have seen violence, (2) whether men are usually the ones who hurt people, (3) whether violence happens in rich and poor families, and (4) whether all children feel the same things after they see violence.


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Medical Trauma


At the Hospital: Helping My Child Cope: What Parents Can Do (2004) (PDF)  
En el Hospital: Cómo Ayudar a Mi Hijo a Sobrellevar la Situación (2009) (PDF)
When a child is very ill or injured, the whole family can suffer. Both children and parents can have symptoms of trauma when a child is sick, hurt, or has to go to the hospital. Most parents feel helpless, unable to heal their child or feel better themselves. This fact sheet gives parents ideas about what to do and to say to their child—such as staying with your child in the hospital as much as possible, letting your child ask the doctors and nurses questions, and reminding your child that it’s OK to be scared or to cry.

After the Hospital: Helping My Child Cope: What Parents Can Do (2004) (PDF)  
This two page handout gives parents ideas about helping their child after they come out of the hospital. Especially in the first days and weeks after being in the hospital, children might behave differently than they did before. They may keep thinking about why they were in the hospital, become upset more often, not sleep well, feel scared, or have stomachaches. Sometimes they might want to stay away from places and things that remind them of the event (such as the hospital). Usually children do get better, as time passes, with help and understanding from their parents.

At the Hospital: Helping My Teen Cope: What Parents Can Do (2004) (PDF)  
En el Hospital: Cómo Ayudar a Mi Adolescente a Sobrellevar la Situación (2009) (PDF)
When a teen is very ill or injured, the whole family can suffer. Both teens and parents can have symptoms of trauma, even though your teen is the one who is ill or injured. Most parents feel helpless, unable to heal their teen or feel better themselves. This fact sheet suggests things for parents to do or say—such as being honest about a painful test or possible results from surgery, or having a nurse introduce your teen to other teens in the hospital going through something similar.

Medical Traumatic Stress: Suggested Resources for Parents (PDF)
This is a list of books, articles, and websites that can help parents deal with the injury or illness of a child.

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Military Children & Families


Military Families Knowledge Bank
This is a list of online articles that can help military families—and the nurses, doctors, and support people who work with them—with health issues, such as helping the soldier after the injury, talking with children whose parents have been hurt, and dealing with the anniversary of a terrible event (such as 9/11).

Traumatic Grief in Military Children: Information for Families (2008) (PDF)
This fact sheet helps families and children who have lost a loved one in the military. 

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Physical Abuse


Child Physical Abuse Fact Sheet (2009) (PDF)
“Physical abuse” of a child is any act by a parent, caregiver, or other trusted person that causes physical injury, even if the person did not mean to cause that injury. This sheet (1) lists the ages of children most likely to be hurt in this way, (2) explains what may happen to the child afterward, (3) lists signs that your child may be being physically abused, and (4) provides ideas on how to help these children.

Questions & Answers about Child Physical Abuse (2008) (PDF)
This sheet answers frequently asked questions about the physical abuse of children, including (1) how many children in the U.S. are abused, (2) what kind of person abuses children, (3) what can help children who have been physical abused, and (4) how to find help for the people who abuse children.

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Sexual Abuse


Acquaintance Rape: Information for Parents and Caregivers (2009) (PDF)
This fact sheet (1) describes acquaintance rape, (2) explains that acquaintance rape can happen to boys as well as girls, (3) tells how acquaintance rape occurs and the typical age of the teens involved, (4) gives ideas for protecting teens from rape by an acquaintance, and (5) tells parents how to help a teen after she or he has been raped.

“But Who Should I Tell?” Questions and Answers about Seeking Help after Sexual Abuse (2011) (PDF)  
This fact sheet helps teens decide what to do if they have been sexually abused, including (1) whether or not to tell others, (2) what might happen if they tell, (3) whom teens can go to for help, and (4) other places to get help.

Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse (2009) (PDF)  
Mostly for parents and caregivers who found out that their child has been sexually abused, this fact sheet (1) gives information about sexual abuse and sexuality; (2) advises parents on what to do if their child tells them that he or she has been abused; (3) explains acquaintance rape; (4) discusses children's sexual behavior and how to deal with it; (5) teaches about children and body safety; and (6) explains what can happen if a child has to go to court to tell about abuse.

Coping with the Shock of Intrafamilial Sexual Abuse: Information for Parents and Caregivers (2009) (PDF)  
“Intrafamilial sexual abuse” means sexual abuse within the family, perhaps abuse of a child by a parent or a good friend or relative whom the child considers part of the family. This fact sheet (1) provides information about the affects of the abuse on both the abused child and family members, (2) helps parents deal with their reactions to the abuse, (3) lists places to go to for treatment and support, and (4) suggests books and articles to read.

It’s Never Your Fault: The Truth about Sexual Abuse (2011) (PDF)  
This fact sheet (1) lists myths teens often believe about sexual assault and the facts for each one, (2) quotes teens who have been sexually abused, and (3) offers guidance on where to go for help.

Questions & Answers about Child Sexual Abuse (2007) (PDF)  
Both girls and boys of any age—even babies—and teens are abused everywhere in the world. This Q & A (1) answers questions about children who have been sexually abused (2) lists signs that your child might have been sexually abused, (3) advises parents how to protect children from sexual abuse, (4) explains how sexual abuse affects children, and (5) suggests ways parents and child together can heal and recover.

Questions & Answers about Child Sexual Abuse Treatment (2007) (PDF)  
This Q&A (1) answers questions about how to treat children who have been sexually abused, (2) provides information about types of treatment, (3) provides guidance on how to find the right person to treat your child, and (4) explains how to tell whether the treatment is working.

Sex? Or Sexual Abuse? Respect Yourself—Know the Difference (2011) (PDF)  
This fact sheet (1) explains the difference between having sex and sexual abuse, (2) provides examples of “red flags”—such as being forced to have sex, being shamed if you don’t have sex, or being made to watch porn or someone else having sex, (3) describes date rape, and (4) suggests help for teens who have been raped or sexually abused.

What to Do If Your Child Discloses Sexual Abuse: Information for Parents and Caregivers (2009) (PDF)  
This brochure (1) gives parents and caregivers steps to take if their child says he or she has been sexually abused, (2) helps parents and caregivers deal with their own feelings about their child's sexual abuse, and (3) suggests books to help children, parents, and caregivers heal and recover.

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Substance Abuse


Helping Your Teen Cope with Traumatic Stress and Substance Abuse: A Guide for Parents (2008) (PDF)  
This fact sheet (1) shows parents the connections between trauma and drug abuse; (2) provides tips on helping your teen deal with trauma and stay drug free; (3) suggests (and provides helpful websites) where to go if your teen needs more help; (4) includes a chart of commonly abused drugs—listing the type, slang names, signs your child is using, and bodily reactions to taking that drug.

Recognizing Drug Use in Adolescents: A Quick Guide for Caregivers and Adults (2007) (PDF)  
This fact sheet gives information on drugs abused by teens, including the name, how the drug is used, how a person behaves on the drug, and signs of bad reactions and overdoses.

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Terrorism and Disasters


Coping in Hard Times: Fact Sheet for Parents and Caregivers (2011) (PDF)  
This fact sheet helps parents understand how their being out of work may affect the whole family, and provides ways to deal with this problem and where to turn for more help.

Emergency Medical Technician Pocket Card for Children and Families (2006) (PDF)  
This card gives parents a few tips for helping their child when he or she suffers an injury, including things that help after he or she comes out of the hospital.

Family Preparedness: Thinking Ahead (2003)  
This fact sheet gives families ideas for creating a plan so that they can be prepared if a disaster (such as an earthquake, flood, or tornado) happens in their area. Also available in Armenian, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Family Preparedness Wallet Card (2003)
This card fits in a wallet and has space to list emergency telephone numbers including community numbers (nearest fire station, police, hospital) and personal numbers (relatives, family doctors, children’s schools). Also available in Armenian, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Talking to Children about War and Terrorism (2003) (PDF)  
This fact sheet (1) advises parents about how to talk with their children about terrorism and war; (2) provides the best ways to explain disasters to children of different ages; (3) suggests TV programs that children can watch on these subjects; (4) has a section on children from for example, military families who may need special attention, and (5) suggests ways to come together as a family in times of war.

Tips for Families on Anticipating Anniversary Reactions to Traumatic Events (2002) (PDF)  
Sugerencias para la familia que anticipa reacciones adversas al aproximarse el aniversario de un acontecimiento traumático (PDF)
The anniversary of a tragic event can cause people to experience the same feelings they had when the event first happened, whether it is a personal event (such as a death in the family) or a mass tragedy (such as a school shooting, wildfire, or plane crash). This sheet helps families learn about symptoms that may mean their child is suffering and offers some tips for how to help them get better.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers on Media Coverage of Traumatic Events (2004) (PDF) 
Children can be scared or worried by what they see and hear on TV about traumatic events. This sheet (1) provides tips on talking to children about what they saw and dealing with their questions; (2) suggests what to say to children before the anniversary of a tragic event (such as 9/11); and (3) includes, "When You and Your Children Are Part of the Story," a section for families if they are approached by the media for an interview after a traumatic event.

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More Information and Resources


The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has much more information to help families. For a complete list, follow the directions below.

  • Go to
  • On the top of the page in the purple band you will see six choices.
  • Click on Products.
  • Go to the box under the words Listed by Audience.
  • Click on the arrow on the right side of the box.
  • In the list that comes up below, choose For Parents and Caregivers.
  • Then click the Apply button (to the right of the box).
  • A list will come up of all NCTSN resources for parents and caregivers.

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Need Immediate Help?

If you think your child has child traumatic stress and you need immediate help, please see the NCTSN "About Us" page at

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