1. Pearson, Linda J. RN, FNP, MSN, DNSc(c), Editor-in-Chief

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This past summer, the media buzzed with reports of child kidnappings, sexual assaults, and murders. We heard that these occurrences weren't more prevalent this summer compared with last, but children don't understand this. When newscasters report on child abductions, children soak it all in. Regardless of your practice specialty, you can help families cope with stress and loss by using the mnemonic device ABC (A ccept feelings, B e there, and C onnect).


Teach Parents Their ABCs

Depending on their maturity, children can react to traumatic events with sadness, anxiety, and fear. Regardless of their age group, a loss of security affects children. Preschoolers may take everything personally and react with physical symptoms (bedwetting, head or stomach aches, nightmares, or irritability). Grade-school children may react with verbalized worries. And, adolescents may hide their concerns, withdrawing or showing defiance.


Accept Feelings

Anxiety and depression are normal reactions to feeling threatened. Remind parents that children react and adapt to events on their own timetable. Children need time to grieve. Don't push them to talk; instead, remain available for when they're ready. Gently help children talk about what they're feeling and validate their emotions as normal, avoiding criticism and judgment. Answer their questions honestly with age-appropriate explanations. Emotions can revisit in cycles over many years, and anniversary dates can trigger grief.


Be There

Parents should reassure their children that they'll be there for them, but they shouldn't overdo it. If parents exaggerate their concern, children will believe that their parents are scared too, and this will add to the child's fear. Instruct parents to be present during bedtime and when they wake up. Daily, predictable routines increase feelings of stability and security. Parents should be there to listen and support their children, but they shouldn't feel that they must try to "fix" their child. Explain that when parents help their children through trauma or loss, they're actually teaching them a crucial life skill.



Families can turn fear or pain into a positive bonding experience by volunteering and forming a connection with their community. Children model their behavior after their parents', regardless of what parents tell them to do. Parents should avoid sweeping negative generalizations of people or life, as this can increase a child's feeling of isolation and loneliness. If parents feel overwhelmed, encourage them to seek professional help.


Remind parents that how they relate to their children plays an essential role in their family's resilience. Weave as many of the ABCs into patient encounters as possible. Every parent will be grateful to learn practical tools for helping their children cope.