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You are here: Third Culture Kids > Crisis-Trauma

Emotional First Aid

By Lynda Shingledecker Wheeler

So, what can you do if you find yourself going through a crisis with your children/students? Victims and witnesses of traumatic events have three immediate needs:

  • Safety and Security: freedom from fears and terrors associated with the event, sensory perceptions, and how thoughts and feelings are encoded;
  • Validation and Ventilation: the need to tell the story of their experiences, understand the patterns of trauma reaction, and then recognize the human commonality of that pattern; and
  • Predict and Prepare: facing the future and preparing for how they might cope, including identifying sources of strength. 1

Specific things you can do:

  1. Provide safety, security, and support
    1. Create a "safe place" where children can talk openly and express themselves.
    2. Listen and respond to verbal and nonverbal cues.
    3. Notice and acknowledge things about children.
    4. Give children reassurance and encouragement.
    5. Provide structure, stability, and predictability with FLEXIBILITY!.
  2. Provide [classroom] activities that facilitate coping
    1. Provide activities that encourage kids to share experiences.
    2. Apply their experiences to their academic studies (i.e., writing essays, etc.).
    3. Look for ways that they can appropriately express their response(s) or emotions about the situation.
    4. Provide an "out" for children who are struggling and may not want to participate, yet continue to try to include them.
    5. Do something for others in need
  3. Ways to help kids at home
    1. Look for self-medication (food, extra activity, etc.).
    2. Recognize importance of family time/devotions.
    3. Remember identity issues/cultural differences in responding.
    4. Encourage kids to talk to someone (if not you).
    5. Do something for others in need.
    6. Acknowledge grief stages — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
    7. Recognize ripple effect2.
  4. Encourage Parents to do the following:
    1. Spend time with their children
    2. Identify stressors in their children's behavior and get help if needed
    3. Maintain some structure & boundary — a sense of normalcy to their family routines
  5. Take care of yourself!
    1. Acknowledge your own feelings.
    2. Recognize how you cope with stress.
    3. Talk to someone about what you are going through.
    4. Try to maintain a perspective on your situation.
    5. Manage your stress by taking a step back from work, exercising, allowing time off for fun, etc.
    6. ASK for help!

You can't help your children if you are not aware of your own stress and needs.

Here is a downloadable copy of this information.

Emotional First Aid
Lyn Shingledecker Wheeler, 2013-07-08
Download "emotional_1st_aid.pdf", Acrobat PDF document, 45KB [684 downloads]

Permission to copy, but not for commercial use.


1 The above information comes from"Common Reactions to Trauma" excerpted from the National Association of School Psychologists.
2 A spreading series of effects or consequences caused by a single event.


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