Student Safety Resources » Coping Strategies

Coping Strategies

Ways Parents Can Help Their Children During Difficult Times

Ways Parents Can Help Their Children in a Crisis

School Safety Tipline 1-844-PUSD-TIP (1-844-787-3847)

Children can feel the same intense feelings that you feel about the crisis. This is a natural reaction. Some children may show their feelings in a direct and immediate fashion, others will wait until a later time. A severe change in a young person's behavior (speech, emotion, appearance, alertness, activity) may be a sign that professional help is needed.

  1. Protect students (including high school students) from vicarious trauma and information overload. Limit television and give age-appropriate, accurate information in small doses.
  2. Be aware that it is a person's reaction that determines how powerful the event is, not the event itself. Children (and parents) may be reacting to previous hurtful experiences.
  3. It is okay for you to share your reactions with moderation while remembering that you are modeling for your children.
  4. Listen to what young people have to say. It is important not to shut off discussion by offering your opinions or judgments. Do clarify facts.
  5. Support children to express their reactions in a way that is appropriate for them. Let them talk, write or draw about their feelings.
  6. Listen to what your children say and how they say it. Repeat your child(ren)'s words, and recognize fear, anxiety, insecurity. For instance: "you are afraid that… " or, "You wonder if something like this will happen again." This helps both you and the child clarify feelings.
  7. Reassure your child with, "We are together." "We care about you." "We will take care of you."
  8. Responding to repeated questions. You may need to repeat information and reassurances many times.
  9. A familiar routine is comforting!
  10. Remember, children may remain quiet and depressed for some time after the event and some may begin to act out noisily and physically as a method of dealing with their feelings.

Talking with Children About Tough Issues

Helpful Information for Parents 

School Safety Tipline 1-844-PUSD-TIP (1-844-787-3847)

Listed below are several helpful tips to aid parents in talking with their children about tough issues. Also listed are various contacts that can help parents by providing more information and resources for support.

  1. Communicate Your Values - As a parent, you have a wonderful opportunity to be the first person to talk with your children about tough issues. Remember: research shows that children want and need moral guidance from their moms and dads; so don't hesitate to make your beliefs clear.
  2. Initiate Conversations With Your Children - Just one or two questions could help start a valuable discussion that comes from everyday circumstances and events.
  3. Discuss Sensitive Subjects - If you feel uncomfortable talking about sensitive subjects with your young child, you're not alone. Many parents feel awkward and uneasy, especially if they are anxious about the subject. But, for your kid's sake, try to overcome your nervousness and bring up the issue with your child.
    • In talking with your child, provide simple, accurate information to questions.
    • Repeat your child's words that recognize fear, anxiety, or insecurity. (You are sorry because… You are afraid that…)
    • Provide reassuring comments. (We are together…We care about you…We will take care of you.)
  4. Encourage Time for Listening - How do you create a time and environment for talking and listening? By being encouraging, supportive, and positive. Listening carefully to your children lets them know that they're important to you and can lead to valuable discussions about a wide variety of issues. Listening carefully also can help you to better understand what your children really want to know as well as what they already understand. Listen and talk to your child about his/her own feelings.
  5. Be Patient - By listening patiently, children have time to think at their own pace and you are letting them know that they are worthy of our time.
  6. Seeking Professional Help - If you suspect a problem, you can turn to your family physicians, clergy, schools, and resources available in your community for assistance.
Resources available:
  1. Your school site administrator can provide you with information about support services available for your children at the school site and within the District.
  2. The Poway Unified School District maintains a hotline for reporting information or seeking help. The hotline number is 858-668-4161.
  3. A website is available that gives information on "Megan's Law" and the general location of registered sex offenders in your area (
  4. Individuals can access more specific information about sex offenders by contacting their local law enforcement agency, or visiting the San Diego Police Department Headquarters at 1400 E Street from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dial (619) 531-2000 for 24-hour non-emergency calls and general information. Please call (858) 484-3154 if you live in the 858 area code. POWAY INFORMATION: San Diego County Sheriff's, Poway Station; 13100 Bowron Road,Poway; CA Emergency:9-1-1; Dispatch:(858)565-5200; Business: (858) 513-2800; Fax:(858)748-7954.
  5. The San Diego District attorney's Office provides the following information about what parents can do to protect their children regarding the Internet: "By following some simple rules, you can minimize the dangers to yourself and your children online.
    1.  Keep your computer in a common area of the house.
    2. Set time and use restrictions.
    3. Use blocking and filtering programs.
  6. Remember that the most important way to protect your child online is to educate yourself and be involved with your child's online use. (For more tips go to

Coping with Children’s Reactions to Tragedy and Disaster School Safety

Tipline 1-844-PUSD-TIP (1-844-787-3847)

Fear and Anxiety

  • Fear is a normal reaction to any danger that threatens one’s life or well being.
  • What are children afraid of after a disaster?
    • They are afraid of recurrence, or injury, or death.
    • They are afraid of being separated from their family.
    • They are afraid of being left alone.
  •  One must recognize that children who are afraid are very frightened human beings!
  • A first step for parents is to understand the kinds of fears and anxieties children experience.


Advice to Parents

    • It is of great importance for the family to remain together.
    • Children need reassurance by their parents’ words as well as by their actions.
    • Listen to what children tell you about their fears.
    • Listen when they tell you about how they feel and what they think of what has happened, and validate them.
    • Explain the disaster and the known facts to the children; listen to them.
    • Encourage them to talk.
    • Children’s fears do not need to completely disrupt their own and the family’s activities.
    • Communicate and work cooperatively with the crisis team at your children’s school.

Settling Down

    • Parents should indicate to the children that they are maintaining control; they should be understanding but firm, be supportive, and make decisions for the children.
         Bedtime problems:
Children may refuse to go to their room to sleep by themselves.
      • When they do go to bed, they may have difficulty falling asleep.
      • They may wake up often during the night; they may have nightmares.
    • It is natural for children to want to be close to their parents and for parents to want to have their children near them.
    • Parents should also be aware of their own fears, their own uncertainty, and of the effect these have upon children.
    • Children may demonstrate regressive behavior such as:
      • Bedwetting
      • Clinging to parents
      • Thumb sucking
    • Children respond to praise; parents should make a deliberate effort not to focus on the child’s immature behavior.
    • Specific fears:
      • Refusal to go to school
      • Fear of the dark
      • Fear of going to bed
      • Fear of “monsters”

How Can Parents Recognize When to Seek Professional Help?

    • If a sleeping problem continues for more than a few weeks, if the clinging behavior does not diminish, or if the fears become worse, it is time to ask for professional advice.
    • Mental health professionals are specifically trained to help people in distress. They can help parents cope with and understand the unusual reactions of the child. By talking to the parents and child, either individually or in a group, a therapist can help a child overcome his fears more easily.
    • By working with the student assistance team at their child’s school, parents can gain access to resources and obtain recommendations.


    • Recognize and acknowledge your own feelings of loss and grief.
    • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
    • Be realistic about what you can do. Allow yourself to receive support from others.
    • Stick to a schedule as much as you can. Familiar routine provides stability and comfort when feelings are out of control.
    • Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to “get it together” right away. You don’t have to do it all, be strong for everyone, or take care of everything. Treat yourself with the same gentleness and understanding you would anybody else.

Helping Children Coping with Grief

Grieving After A Loss - Postvention Guidelines 

School Safety Tipline 1-844-PUSD-TIP (1-844-787-3847)

The survivors of any death need comfort, support, and trusted listeners with whom they can discuss their grief. The stigma of suicide and the shame, guilt, and blame that people feel can isolate suicide survivors in their grief. Many survivors find their relief in support groups, where they can voice their feelings and learn from the experience of others. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Coping strategies vary from community to community and from person to person. Common coping strategies include, but are not limited to:
  • Talk-Talk-Talk. Share openly what has happened. The unknown is most times more frightening to youth than the awful truth.
  • Encourage students to talk openly about the feelings they experience. Many feel that they are the only ones who are feeling emotions they perceive to be “irrational.”
  • Remind them that it is okay to ask for help. Anyone who was close to the victim is now in a higher risk group than they were before. For many people, youth and adults, a death in their community will trigger emotions from a past death close to them or personal feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
  • Create an in-school support group. There should be a group for students and another for adults. The student group may be facilitated by a student, but must have an adult advisor present. Support groups have been found to be the most effective in assisting people in their grief and recovery from loss. Knowing that others are experiencing the same emotions and thoughts as oneself is a powerful healing tool.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Do NOT isolate yourself or allow anyone you know to isolate themselves. Get involved and stay involved in activities.
  • Contact your local churches and mental health associations to provide additional assistance to the school counselors and to the school staff. Consider the importance of spirituality in your life.
  • Share with school personnel and students that while most people experience the “typical” stages of grief, we do not all experience them in the same order or time frame. Every person is an individual and reacts uniquely to each situation.
  • Allow for “down time” for students and school personnel. Many times we, as a society, are very capable of taking care of others and not so good at taking care of ourselves.
  • Volunteer - It is a method through which you can give of yourself.

Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program[email protected]

Grief Associated with Suicide – Warning Signs and Getting Help

School Safety Tipline 1-844-PUSD-TIP (1-844-787-3847)
Grief Associated with Suicide – Warning Signs and Getting Help Safe Schools Hotline 858.668.4161

When there is a loss of a student or staff member at a school the school community grieves this tragic loss. To assist the students and staff in handling this loss, a special crisis intervention team comes to the school. An increased level of individual and group counseling services has been made available.

Please be aware that a child may experience strong feelings in response to death, including sorrow, depression, anger, fear, or even guilt. He or she may have difficulty sleeping and/or experience nightmares or may temporarily regress in his or her behavior or academically. The child will likely have a special need at this time for your comfort and support; please try to be available to listen with patience and understanding.

If the death is suicide-related, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and that there is potential for suicide contagion. Warning signs may include:

• Persistent sad or “empty” mood
• Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
• Loss of interest in usual activities or isolation
• Excessive alcohol and/or drug use
• Disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns
• Irritability, anxiety or feeling “out of control”
• Recurrent thoughts or talk of death or suicide

Please seek help immediately if your child expresses any suicidal ideation or exhibits any suicide warning signs. The San Diego County Access and Crisis Line: 1-800-479-3339.

Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program[email protected]

Helping Children Cope after a Disaster