Children & Young People's Emotional Health


When children or young people experience an unexpected scary or stressful event it can upset them for a few weeks after the actual event. They might feel angry, sad, guilty, confused or anxious and you may notice a change in your child as a result.


Here are some common behaviours that you might notice your child experiencing:

  • Getting angry or irritable
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Not being able to sleep or having nightmares
  • Not wanting to think or talk about the event and avoiding things that might remind them of it
  • Feeling as if it is happening again
  • Memories of the event popping into their mind
  • Regressive behaviour (eg bedwetting, wanting to stay close to adults, sucking their thumb)
  • Physical complaints (headaches, tummy aches)
  • Worrying about their own or their family's safety

Although it can be really difficult for your child, you can help by letting them know their reactions are completely normal and offer ideas of things to try, either together or on their own, to manage their feelings and keep them safe.

There are many different types of events that can lead to these reactions, such as single events, including car accidents, bereavement, crime etc. There are also traumas that can happen over a longer time frame, such as abuse and neglect. The video below explains the possible impact of repeated events.

Dive Deeper

Help Them To Understand What Happened

Children and young people need to be able to make sense of what they have experienced. Depending on their age, they can really benefit from talking through and being given an explanation of what happened, reminding them the event is over and they are safe now. This will help your child to make sense of the event and may help to process some of the feelings they may be experiencing.

Talking through the events can help to stop your child misunderstanding something that happened. They may think that it's their fault or they may be confused about what actually happened.

You can help to avoid this by being clear and open with them. It is helpful for children to be prepared so that they can talk to others about what has happened or answer people’s questions, if they want to.

Be Available To Talk

It may sometimes feel that the right thing to do is not talk about what has happened in case it upsets your child or makes things worse.

Talking can be a positive first step, but needs to be done carefully, sensitively and at the right time for your child. Support and encourage them to talk when they are ready. Some children and young people may want to use dolls or toys, or draw pictures to help them to understand what has happened.

It can be difficult or distressing, but by thinking about, talking about and drawing what happened, you can help your child to have more understanding of the memory and be less afraid of it. If you find it hard talking to your child, you could ask another adult to help, such as a family member or a trusted friend.

Dealing With Grief

All deaths can be difficult to deal with and can take time to come to terms with. If the death happened because of a traumatic incident it can take even more time, especially for younger people. Children and young people sometimes struggle to put feelings and thoughts into words and tend to show feelings with their behaviour.

Younger children might need some help in understanding what has happened and that the person is not coming back. It is important to be supportive and patient with them and take time to explain it. 

Every child is different and will cope with the death of someone important in their own way. Here are some things that can help:

  • Be clear, honest and age-appropriate with the information you share with your child.
  • Reassure them that they are not to blame and that different feelings are OK.
  • Keep normal routines.
  • Make time to talk about what has happened.
  • Listen to them and give them time to grieve in their own way.

More information on bereavement

Looking After Your Child Following A Trauma

There are many things that parents and carers can do to help their child recover from a trauma. This guide, produced by the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub in the wake of the 2017 Manchester Arena bomb attack, will help you understand why many children and young people find it hard after a trauma, what they might be experiencing and how you can help them.

Download the guide

Things You Can Do To Help

If your child has experienced trauma, you could use these activities and tools to help them understand and process what has happened. It can help to encourage your child to notice their thoughts and memories and then choose if they want to talk about it, draw it, or try to let it go for now and concentrate on a different experience.

Ukrainian Support

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has caused many families to leave their homes in search of safety. This will have been an extremely traumatic experience for many families. If you or your children have recently arrived in the UK and you need support you can call Barnardo's free helpline on 0800 148 8586.

  • They will be able to provide you with support from a qualified psychotherapist.  
  • Advice on housing, health services, education, employment
  • Practical support - access to digital devices to ensure families stay connected to loved ones

The Helpline is open: 

Monday – Friday 10am-8pm  

Saturday 10am-3pm 

More Information

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support. 

Childline - Children and young people under 19 can call 0800 1111 for free support.

Young Minds Parents Helpline - Call 0808 802 5544 for free Mon-Fri from 9.30am to 4pm.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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