Real Advice: What to do when your child is struggling to process tragedy

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

Hi Richard,

My 10 year old daughter has been quite affected by the shootings. She is at the point where she doesn’t want to be left alone in her room at night and struggles in the morning to feel safe in our home. She is scared it’s going to happen to us but also just has a deep fear of being on her own.

We have shifted her into her sister's room tonight as she said sharing a room will help.

What’s the way forward here?

My biggest worry is how to navigate this without putting too many crutches in place (sharing a room etc). Any advice greatly appreciated!



Wow. I am so sorry to hear that. Firstly, let me say, that putting her in a room with her sister for the time being is totally fine. Do the things that bring her comfort and don’t disrupt you as a family too much.

Secondly, you might find it helpful to let her know that when we have shocks, sometimes a fear gets stuck in our brain. When a fear/worry gets stuck in our brain, it helps to let the fear talk so that it comes into the light.

Keeping your tone with her caring and matter of fact. You might say, “We need to help your brain know it’s ok to be calm and relax again because we are safe. Let’s ask the fear why would it happen to us?” Tease it out and then reassure the specific fears.

Do an emotional stock take: “When the shooting happened did anything happen to you, to your sister?” You can then reassure her, “So even though the bad thing happened we were all ok.”

Do a resource stock take. Help her to understand why she does not need to be in control? For example, because the police and government are taking extra steps to help’ school teachers know what to do to look after students and keep them safe; and so on.

You might add, “Even telling yourself that a big shock has got stuck but nothing bad is happening and we’re all ok, can help.”

Generally, a child will calm down after a shock when others around them model calmness and safety. When that doesn’t happen, then talk it through with them, and get additional help.

As this is shooting related, you can book your daughter in for free counselling with Larena Brown. Email to request an appointment.

Use whatever seems helpful to your situation.



Response from Mum

Oh man, that’s super helpful thanks. I will see how she goes in her sister’s room. Will keep teasing it out and talking through the feelings. Will definitely make appointment if we don’t see progress. She is at least in her own bed again. We were having a visitor most nights. Thanks again!!

Shared with permission.


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