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Traumatic events and children

Stress - traumatic events in children

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One in four children experiences a traumatic event by the time they are 18 years old. Traumatic events can be life threatening and are bigger than what your child should ever have to experience.

Learn what to watch for in your child and how to take care of your child after a traumatic event. Get professional help if your child is not recovering.

Kinds of Traumatic Events

Your child could experience a one-time traumatic event or a repeated trauma that happens over and over again.

Examples of one-time traumatic events are:

Examples of traumatic events that your child experiences over and over are:

Know the Signs of Traumatic Stress

Your child may be having emotional reactions and feels:

Your child may also be having physical problems like:

Your child may also be reliving the event:

Know the Signs of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

One half of the children who survive traumatic events will show signs of PTSD. Every child's symptoms are different. In general, your child may have:

Your child may also go back to behaviors they had outgrown:

Your Child Needs Your Support

Let your child know that they are safe and that you are in control.

Let your child know that you are there for them.

Monitor information that your child is getting about an event. Turn off the TV news and limit your conversations about events in front of young children.

Get Your Child Help

There is no one way that children recover after traumatic events. Expect that your child should go back to their usual activities over time.

If your child is still having trouble recovering after one month, get professional help. Your child will learn how to:

Let teachers know about traumatic events in your child's life. Keep open communication about changes in your child's behavior.


Augustyn MC, Zukerman BS. Impact of violence on children. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap14.

Peinado J, Leiner M. Violence-associated injury among children. In: Fuhrman BP, Zimmerman JJ, eds. Fuhrman and Zimmerman's Pediatric Critical Care. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 123.


Review Date: 10/2/2020  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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