Children | Kay Trotter

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All Posts in Category: Children

Did you know that blowing bubbles can help you reduce anxiety and stress…and it’s fun.

bubbles, reduce stress and anxiety

It’s true, when you blow bubbles your breathing in and out which is the equivalent of taking deep breath’s. Did you know it only takes 3-deep breaths to change your brain chemistry? Yep it’s true. I like to give clients a bottle of miniature bubbles that they can carry in their pocket, and use any time when they’re feeling anxious or stressed. Blowing bubbles also gives them cover as their friends will not think them strange or weird, just playful.

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Sandtray Therapy can be transformative

Sandtray therapyUsing Sandtray miniatures to create genograms can be a transformative therapy for all clients of all ages.

Sandtray Genograms allows the clinician and client to gain awareness about the effects of family relationships on client’s choices and feelings as well as how family dynamics affect the healing process.


  • Facilitate processing of family dynamics.
  • Introduces to clients to a playful, fun activity that will allow increased awareness about the choices and feelings one experiences related to one’s family.
  • Identify & utilize effective therapy prompts to help clients gain awareness.Enhance multicultural sensitivity as the clinician can more clearly see the culture and cultural issues in the client’s miniature selection.


Is designed to help clients express feelings. Sandtray is a “hands-on,” expressive psychotherapeutic approach that translates personal experience into a concrete, three-dimensional form. Using a tray of sand, water, and miniature figurines, clients create and 3-dimensional scenes in the sand. Clients symbolically express thoughts, feelings and memories in a tangible, vivid, and  highly personalized way. The therapist uses the client’s sandtray scene as a springboard for further elaboration of emotions and their causes. As with all counseling the therapist strives to provide unconditional positive regard, reflection of feelings in a nonjudgmental manner, displayed trust in the client’s capacity to work through issues to increase the client’s ability to cope with anxious feelings.

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Help Children Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Help children reduce anxiety and stress

A common thread in today’s world is anxious children and parents who are pulled in too many directions—stressed out. One way to help children and parents simultaneously reduce anxiety and stress in their lives is through the use of relaxation, and visualization techniques.

Visualization is one of my favorite techniques to help clients achieve a sense of relaxation and well-being. Visualization is a form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. It is a way of focusing your imagination to create calm, peaceful images in your mind; thereby creating an imaginary haven or “safe place” that can be revisited anytime.

I find that adding parents in the process is a powerful. Helping both child and parent both embrace and internalize the power of a mindful way of being. Awareness of this kind can have a virtually immediate effect on health and well-being.

Here is one of my favorite Anxiety Reduction Techniques

In my office markers, colored pencils, crayons and drawing paper is laid out on the coffee table and there is calm, meditative music playing in the background. This sends a non-verbal message to my client that “today is going to be different.” I briefly describe what we will be doing today and get their approval. To alleviate all fears that they may have, I explain that the visualization will tell them anything that they need to do.

To give a little background, visualization uses a script that is read out loud using a sing-song-style of voice. It is designed to put the listener into a relaxed, meditative state where they use their imagination to relax and feel peace. For example, one of the scripts I use is called “Cozy Castle” and it describes a magical cozy castle high in the clouds where dreams come true and we can relax and enjoy peace and comfort.

The combination of calm, meditative music with the slow, sing-song-style of voice has a powerful impact on the listener’s subconscious state. The use of a melodic and sing-song tone also allows information to be processed easier and the meditative music has the ability to quickly shift our mood, affecting our subconscious mind where pesky negative thoughts feed on our fears and fuel the fires of stress.

Before we start, I read a list of visualization scripts to my child and ask them which one they would like to start with (I like to do at least two). I also explain that I have some visualization scripts especially designed to be used at bedtime, which I will send home with them for their parent to read. (For me it’s important that the child be included in the decision process, it also models for the parent how to incorporate visualization scripts at home.)

After they choose the visualization script they want to use, I read the visualization to the child and, at the end of the script, I add the sentences, “When you’re ready to come back, open your eyes and draw your Cozy Castle [if that was the name of visualization used]. When you’re finished, I will ask you to share your drawing with me.”

I like to use visualization because it accesses the emotional world of the child in a non-verbal format, thus allowing the child and counselor/parent to understand the experience of the child. Art also allows the child and counselor/parent to connect through images rather than words alone. Expressive therapy is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. The therapist uses the child’s artistic production as a springboard for further elaboration of the clients emotions and their causes.

After the child and I have processed their drawing, I say, “Let’s go get your parent and together the two of you can do the next visualization together.” Once the parent is with us, I explain what her child and I did in session and share the bedtime visualization scripts that I will be sending home. I then invite the parent to “join us” in a visualization journey. At this point, I again ask the child to choose a visualization script and for everyone to sit back and get comfortable. At the end of the visualization, I again ask the child and their parent to draw their experience.

Parents love this way of being involving in their child’s life journey. It’s powerful because the parent gets to experience first-hand the emotional impact of the session and they also are able to hear how I read the visualization  and understand the importance of reading in a sing-song manner with frequent pauses.


Guided Relaxation – free Guided Imagery scripts

The Power of Music To Reduce Stress

Helping children learn how to relax and de-stress

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Childhood Development Ages 8 to 11

childhood development ages 8-11“The major task of childhood is to become “your own person”

My childhood development blog series will include the characteristics of the “typical” child during each developmental stage from ages 8 to 18, illustrating how children’s progression through these stages is determined not only by biological growth and change, but also by temperament and personality, adult expectations, and social influences.

The main tasks of childhood require children to learn, and this kind of learning is not just a matter of getting the right answer. Most important is to understand the meaning of the right answer. This is truly difficult work and it absolutely requires support from parents, relatives, and neighbors.

To help children grow up, parents need to be aware how their child is changing, growing, and developing. It is easy for a middle-aged adult to forget this fact, especially when confronted with a difficult problem. However, parents who are working on their own growth are in a good position to understand children and to respect what they are doing as they struggle to grow up and become good people in their own right.

Children progression through these stages is determined not only by biological growth and change, but also by temperament and personality, adult expectations, andsocial influences. Children learn to make choices and commitments, follow through with them, and stand up independently in the world. They need to be respected for taking on these tasks. After all, we respect adults who can do these things. They are complicated and courageous actions. However, children swing back and forth between dependence and independence as they work on these tasks. It is easy for parents to get frustrated. It is also easy for a parent to assume that if the child would simply follow the plan that makes sense to a parent, things would be all right in the end.

“Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them.”
-Richard L. Evans

Understanding your child’s moral, emotional, and self-development – the main tasks of childhood require children to learn, and this kind of learning is not just a matter of getting the right answer. Most important is to understand the meaning of the right answer. This is truly difficult work and it absolutely requires support from parents, relatives, and neighbors.

To help children grow up, parents need to be aware how their child is changing, growing, and developing. It is easy for a middle-aged adult to forget this fact, especially when confronted with a difficult problem. However, parents who are working on their own growth are in a good position to understand children and to respect what they are doing as they struggle to grow up and become good people in their own right.

Late Childhood Development 8-11″

Cognitive Stage: Children in this developmental stage use logical thinking but with a very limited ability to extend logic to abstract concepts (e.g. the disdain for imaginative and illogical thinking of early childhood). At this point, they have accumulated a lot of general knowledge and have gradually developed the ability to apply learned concepts to new tasks. They also have a frequent interest in learning life skills from adults at home and elsewhere (e.g. cooking, fixing things, etc.).

Moral Development: Children age 8-11 are predominantly focused in the needs and wants of themselves, although they have developed a conscience and move from thinking in terms of “What’s in it for me?” fairness (e.g. “If you did this for me, I would do that for you.”). They now want to gain social approval and live up to the expectations of people close to them. They tend to have a ”Golden Rule” morality where they can take the perspective of others and may place the needs of others over their own self-interest. However, their moral thinking abilities are not always reflected in their behavior.

Psychological and Emotional Traits: Children at this stage have a need to develop a sense of mastery and accomplishment with frequent interest in making plans and achieving goals. They learn from what parents and others do to make and fix things and have a tendency to be disorganized and forgetful.

“Early onset of puberty is associated with lower self-control and emotional instability.”

Self-Concept: Influenced by relationships with family members, teachers, and increasingly by their peers, often relatively, 8- to 11-year-olds have a low level of concern about their physical appearance (especially boys), although this is influenced by peers as well as the media. Many boys experience pressure to conform to “masculine” stereotype. Girls’ body image declines precipitously with puberty, especially with early onset puberty. Early onset puberty is also associated with lower self-control and emotional instability, especially for boys.

Relationship to Parents and Other Adults: Children in late childhood development tend to be closely attached to parental figures and parents increasingly need to involve these children in decision making while increasing responsibility with age. Most frequent conflicts occur over sibling quarrels and forgetfulness with respect to chores, schoolwork, and messiness, especially of their bedroom. Parental listening skills becomes increasingly important as the parent-child communication patterns can change with puberty. Many adolescents report that (a) they cannot talk with parents about issues related to sexuality, and (b) they do not get needed information in sex education courses at school.

Peer Relationships: Friendships among 8- to 11-year-olds are often with their same-gender peers and are usually based on proximity, common interest/hobbies, or other perceived commonalities. Girls usually have fewer, but emotionally closer, friends than boys. Formation of exclusive “clubs” and shifting peer alliances is common at this age and media influences and popular culture increasingly affect the child’s peer activities and relationships.

† Source: Middle Childhood and Adolescent Development, Oregon State University Extension Service.

Next blog of the Childhood Development series will be  “Early Adolescents ages 11-14”

Download the complete ages 8-18  “Task of Childhood” 

Additional Resource:

Ages and Stages A Parent’s Guide to Normal Childhood Development Written by a fellow play therapist Charles E. Schaefer‘s Ages and Stages this book is great for sorting through what’s normal age appropriate behavior and what’s not.

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about Kaleidoscope Counseling please call 214-499-0396

Dr Trotter also post regularly on her: Facebook Fan Page and Pinterest.

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SuperHero Play Increases Self-Esteem


I just opened a box with new costumes for the play room: Doctor Scrubs, Superman, Wonder Women, Police Officer and Ninja. I am excited to see how the kids use them to play out their emotional conflicts.

Take Superman, for example. Clark Kent is a timid man, but with just a whirl and his special brand of magic, he becomes the all-powerful superhero with superhuman strength and ability. When a child participating in this type of fantasy they successfully boosts themselves from the timid shy Clark Kent to the status of an all-powerful superhuman. This relieves them of their feelings of inadequacy and allows them to discharge their feelings of aggression away from those adults in their life who are in control of them, thus keeping those relationships intact. The greater the imagination, the more elaborate and disguised the fantasies are and the greater the emotional relief and resolution of conflict.

How many times have we all seen young children battling the forces of evil and wondered why does he/she enjoy this so much?

Fantasy in the form of play allows children to build a world of imaginary characters and stories that play out current emotional conflicts in such a way that the emotions are expressed and resolved on a subconscious or unconscious level. Where children rise above themselves as they play, becoming more than their average selves.

In fantasy play, children are able to use abstract and representational thinking, allowing a bowl to become a hat, an empty pot to become a steamy aromatic soup, and a pile of pillows to become a boiling lava flow. This self-guided play requires planning, regulating, and negotiating.  In short, the act of “acting” strengthens the executive functions of the brain.

You can help by

  1. Creating a dressing up box and filling it with old clothes, scarves, jewellery, bags and hats that can be used for pretend play.
  2. Encouraging children to share their pretend play, but without interrupting the flow of play.
  3. Joining in! But let the child lead, through your responses: “Show me what you want me to do,” “What should I say?” or “What happens next?” “What happens now?” “What kind of teacher am I?” “You want me to put that on,” “Hmmm…,”

How does this help my child?

  1. How your child feels about themselves will make a significant difference in their behavior.
  2. As your child feels better about themselves they are able to discover their own strengths and assume greater self-responsibility as they take charge of daily life situations.
  3. How your child thinks, and how they performs in school are directly related to how they feels about themselves.
  4. When your child feels better about themselves, they will behave in more self-enhancing ways rather than self-defeating ways.

If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about Kaleidoscope Counseling please call 214-499-0396

Dr Trotter also post regularly on her: Facebook Fan Page and Pinterest.

You also might like these blog post by Dr Trotter

The Task of Childhood Development

Play Therapy with Young Children

Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

Dr. Trotter’s Pinterest Boards

Additional Resources:

Superhero Play and Child Development

How superhero play supports learning


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Resources to Strengthen Your Child’s Ethnic Identity

Ethnic identity is important because it’s part of an individual’s self-concept develops from knowledge of membership in a cultural group and the value or emotional significance attached to that membership.  For children it’s important that their parents place value on their own unique ethnic group membership.  The relationship between conceptualization of self, ethnic identity and acculturation is critical for children to development.

Here are some resources to encourage a positive ethnic identity for children of color. Most are global resources, however I have added some local Dallas area resources since that is where I live and practice.

Please let me know if you have additional ethnic identity resources and I will add them to this blog post.

Mocha Moms

mom and baby of colorMocha Moms is an online support group for stay-at-home mothers of color who have chosen not to work full-time outside of the home in order to devote more time to their families. Their web site can be used as a resource for current members, prospective members or anyone interested in stay-at-home parenting, child rearing and related topics.


Bill Cosby and Little Bill

Little Bill

Little Bill created by Billy Cosby, Little Bill is based on Cosby’s popular book series and is developed through research and in consultation with a panel of educational consultants. Little Bill is designed to help kids celebrate their everyday experiences and the people who share them.

Little Bill also shows kids that what they do makes a difference in the world. By dealing with conflicts in everyday life, the program encourages children to value the love of their family, to increase self-esteem, and to develop social skills.

Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales For Every Child

black boy and Black mom cartoon

“Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales For Every Child” is a series which retells the world’s most famous fairy tales with a cast of animated characters from many ethnic backgrounds. For the first time ever, children of different races will find themselves represented as the royalty, fairies, and folk of the fairy tale world.

The charm and mystery of the original tales are enhanced by this diverse spectrum of cultures. As the title suggests, these are truly fairy tales for every child.

Up, Up and Away move coverUp, Up and Away

Up, Up and Away movie – Life’s not easy for super-powered teenagers trying to get along in a world that doesn’t understand them. But life is even harder for teens who don’t have superpowers, especially when their parents do. In Disney’s Up, Up and Away, Scott Marshall (Pagan) is the sole “normal” in his super-powered family. His dad is a mild-mannered orthodontist who fights crime as Bronze Eagle. His mother is a similarly mild-mannered businesswoman who takes on the bad guys as Warrior Woman. His older brother Adam rounds out their crime-fighting trio with super speed and electrical powers. Even his little sister, a budding pyromaniac, can shoot laser beams out of her eyes.


Jump In move posterJump In!

Jump In! is the 69th Disney Channel Original Movie that premiered on January 12, 2007. The movie, starring Corbin Bleu from High School Musical and Keke Palmer from Akeelah and the Bee, revolves around a young boxer, Izzy Daniels (Corbin Bleu), who trains to follow in his father’s footsteps by winning the Golden Glove. When his friend, Mary (Keke Palmer), however, asks him to substitute for a team member in a Double Dutch tournament, the young .


black girl cartoon

Lil’ Bits

Lil’ Bits –  when it comes to quality content for Black Children there is always room for more! At the heart of this web site is the Lil’ Bit’s – African American Children’s Book series, but its content also includes fun online activities for Black Children, and useful resources for Black parents. Lil’ Bits is one of many projects by LaShanda Henry, founder of Multiple Shades of You Online, an eCommunity designed for diverse audiences.

Movies – Videos – Books

Movies and books that provide a positive message, lots of black characters, especially show black children being brave and smart vs. dancing, singing and enjoin life to the fullest.

  • Akeelah & The Bee
  • Fat Albert the movie
  • Our Friend Martin
  • Raising Black Boys by Jawanza Kunjufu

South Dallas Cultural Center

Youth Programs South Dallas

The South Dallas Cultural Center is an Afrocentric center that provides instruction and enrichment in the performing, literary, media, and visual arts. The program emphasizes the African contribution to world culture. – Your Internet connection to the Dallas black community


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Bullying In Our Cyber World

It seems like technology becomes more and more prevalent each day and, for most people, it’s already deeply entrenched in our daily lives and activities. This is especially true for pre-teens and teens, many of whom have matured in an age of smartphones and constant, readily available high-speed internet access.

While this readily available technology does have some benefits for children, including easy access to educational information, negative parts of child’s life can also be taken to the internet. One example is cyber bullying – an internet based version of what you probably saw on the playground or in the schoolyard as a kid.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Image Courtesy of Flickr

The concept of cyber bullying might be new to you, but there are some things you can do to help keep your kids avoid it. There are also ways you can stop cyber bullying if it is already occurring, whether your child is the victim or the one doing the bullying.

What Is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying is essentially the same thing as bullying in the physical world, except instead of name-calling or making mean jokes in-person, kids are utilizing the internet. Cyber bullying is particularly common on social media platforms, like Facebook, where groups of children can comment and see comments. Bullying occurs through other forms of technology as well, like email and even mean-spirited blogs.

In some cases, cyber bullying is even directed solely at one child. For example, a bully could send a mean or hurtful text message or email.

Similar to bullying in real life, cyber bullying can become very serious, especially when there is a threat of physical violence. Cyber bullying can also affect a child’s self-esteem and make him or her feel isolated from their peers.

Is Cyber Bullying Common?

Many parents aren’t familiar with the idea of cyber bullying, but according to a 2006 poll conducted by the national organization Fight Crime, one in three teens and one in six pre-teens have been the victims of cyber bullying. As more children gain increasing access to technology, these statistics may be pushed even higher.

Signs of Cyber Bullying

If your child is the victim of cyber bullying, there may be some signs that can help you spot it before it becomes a serious issue. The most obvious sign of cyber bullying is emotional distress or feelings of discomfort after using technology.

Due to the increase in cyber bullying, some kids even choose to avoid using technology they once enjoyed altogether. Others may withdraw from friends or avoid group activities like parties or after-school functions.

If you believe your child is bullying a classmate via technology, talking to your child right away is the first step. Remind your child that the technology they’re using is a privilege, not a right; if they use it to harm others, they will no longer have access.

If your child has been bullying other children, you may want to monitor their use of social sites and technology more closely. You may need to speak with your child’s school counselor or principal if the situation has been going on for a long time.

Cyber bullying can result in physical violence if left unchecked. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Cyber bullying can result in physical violence if left unchecked.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Cyber bullying is a serious problem and it’s one issue that many children face on a daily basis. While you can’t control everything that happens in your child’s life, even when it comes to technology, it’s important that you do what you can to protect them or correct negative behavior.

Cyber bullying can greatly affect children that are the victims and bullying can have long term consequences for the abuser as well.

Virginia Cunningham
Guest Blogger


Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer in California whose writing covers a variety of industries, including health, beauty, gaming and technology. As a mother herself, she always does what she can to ensure the safety

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The shining stars of autism

By Tracie Posehn, LPC-Intern, one of Dr. Kay’s outstanding counseling team members.

Thanks Tracie for this very heart warming look at autism.

Each of us is unique.

Five short words which make such a statement of truth if one takes the time digest. We enter the world with similar characteristics in a global sense: head, body, limbs, eyes, ears and hopefully, 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. For a few, even those parts don’t always show up as expected. Hearts are filled with joy, hope, angst, fear,  wonder . . . the list of emotion extensive. Weight and length are measured and the start of a lifetime of comparison begins. Parents begin to hear terms such as percentile, milestones, normal and abnormal. The infant is watched for signs of distress and when all looks good, out into the big wide world he goes. For some, this transition takes longer than others, but eventually, days turn to weeks, weeks to months and the awe of new skills and mastery start to surface. Parents share anecdotes and begin to plan for the future having survived the first year, enjoying the calm before the storm of the “terrible two’s.”

But, one day, something seems different. Parents’ instincts notice, but the mind pushes these thoughts away. Maybe it’s a coming flu? Or tiredness? Or something one just can’t put a finger on – yet something has changed.

First-time parents may not know what to look for, and more-seasoned parents can tell you that no two pregnancies, let alone children, are the same, and that surely it’s just a phase – kids go through them all the time. Yet as time passes, subtle differences become less subtle. Eye contact and social interaction decrease while objects tend to hold more interest. As play dates come and go, that “something” is still hanging on, and a parent determines it’s time to check with the pediatrician. Autism is diagnosed and the parent feels emotions from all sides: What does this mean in the moment? What does this mean for the future? How did this happen? Now what do we do?

You do what you’ve always done, and what you would continue to do with or without a diagnosis. You love your child and value the amazing qualities that make your heart sing. You broach the challenges with information, strategies and support, just as you would with any other child. You find out what makes your child smile, what makes her heart hurt and you feed her soul. You may have to let go of one set of dreams, and replace them with another – dreams that your child has for a future – building upon strengths and natural talents. You have the opportunity to see outside of your own vision for your child, as so many other parents remain focused on who they want their child to become. You have the opportunity to embrace a life journey outside of the status quo and see the beauty of unique. Granted, a period of adjustment and even grief may follow the initial news, yet ultimately, the child developing before you has the same basic needs as any other child: to be accepted for who he is, encouraged to face challenges and learn from mistakes, have the opportunity to fail and to succeed – to be loved for all his uniqueness.

Normal is a perception, not a state of achievement. All stars shine in the sky. The most vibrant may stand out at first, obvious above the city glow, the norm; the expected. But if you get away from all the hustle and bustle of society, to a quiet place in the country, and allow your eyes to adjust to the natural beauty of the night, you’ll find a different kind of radiance. You’ll see stars with unknown names, in random patterns, making their own kind of magic. One view no better than the other, just different, and at times, a brilliance that’s little harder to find when you’ve become accustomed to the standard and expected.


Helpful resources

Dr. Trotter’s Pinterest Board “Autisum Resources” 

Autisum Speaks

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Boston Marathon Bombing Helping Children Cope

Boston bombing 4-15013

After yesterdays (April 15, 2013) trauma events at the Boston Marathon its important for adult and parent to know how to help children reeling from the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing especially since many children are easily overwhelmed with fear. In response to a  some children react with severe emotional responses — fear, grief, post-traumatic stress. Moreover, such experiences and other events that threaten a child’s sense of worth and well-being can produce intense personal distress.

Until things calm down after yesterdays bombing, it will be normal for your child to show signs of worry and fear. They may have trouble eating or sleeping.

Two weeks from now, if your child still isn’t eating or sleeping normally, or shows other warning signs such as extreme irritability, melancholy, lethargy and reluctance toward or fear of activities he or she once enjoyed, call your pediatrician or seek counseling for your child.

Its important for parents to create a sense of safety for your children 

Provide Caring and Support – Listen to your child’s concerns and answer their questions in direct, factual, age-appropriate ways. (Be careful of giving TOO MUCH information, especially with younger children.)

Children around 5 and younger don’t need to know. Very young children will only recently have mastered the skills of walking and talking, and they may not be able to express their anxieties and fears. Although you may think they are too young to understand what is happening, even very young children can absorb frightening events from the news or from conversations they overhear. Don’t let them watch news stories while they’re in the room. Wait for them to ask about what happened. If they don’t ask, continue business as usual.

Older children are likely to ask questions. You can initiate a conversation by saying, “I know you’re hearing and seeing a lot about what happened at the Boston Marathon bombing. How does this make you feel?” Or select pictures in a book or ask the children to draw pictures to express feelings. Then talk about the pictures. Take the lead from the child as to how much they need to talk about and know about the situation. Keep answers to questions simple, giving only what is needed.

Listen to comments of children as they play. 

Are there clues here that need further conversation?

When there is a situation outside of the home that is frightening, limit the amount of news your children watch or listen to. You don’t need to hide what’s happening in the world from your children, but neither do they have to be exposed to constant stories that fuel their fears. Children may have trouble distinguishing between TV shows that blow up buildings, and the factual news reports of a tragic event. Explain, “Yes, this really did happen. It is a sad time, but we will come through it.”

Realize that extra stresses may heighten normal daily stresses. Your children might normally be able to handle a failed test or teasing, but be understanding that they may respond with anger or bad behavior to stress that normally wouldn’t rattle them. Reassure them that you just expect them to do their best.

Two main questions children are likely to think about, whether they actually ask them or not, are: “Could this happen to me or to someone I love?” Remember that a young child cannot understand, “We just have to trust in God.” They trust in parents, and parents are supposed to protect them. So, while the answers are never easy, again try to keep them simple. “We don’t expect this to ever happen to you or anyone you love. You are always loved and have a loving circle of family and friends.” People sometimes choose to do bad things.”

Be careful what you say in front of children. Keep your emotions in check. If we are lamenting the state of the world and saying things like “I’m afraid to go anywhere anymore,” children will start to feel the world is indeed a scary place.

Expressing Feelings – Provide opportunities for your child to express their feelings. Use toys, puppets, books, music, water play, play dough, painting, and puzzles (creating order out of chaos). Let your child know that you have some of the same feelings they have. Be honest about your feelings, but temper them. Encourage your child to communicate their thoughts and feelings. But balance is again the key: Don’t let the talk escalate and overwhelm children.

Provide Opportunities for Meaningful Participation – Help your child come up with ways they can address the crisis themselves: i.e., raising money, sending cards and letters, forming a Peace Club. Participation gives children a sense of purpose and competence in their own lives and a belief that they can make a positive impact on their own lives and influence and change the lives of others – their peers, family and community.

Increase Pro-social Bonding – Provide your child with positive activities to do together that give them a sense of purpose and mastery in the situation.   Through mastery – a child develops self-efficacy by mastering their environment and learning that what he/she does makes a difference in the world.

Set Clear, Consistent Boundaries – Strike a balance between addressing concerns and getting back to a normal schedule. Boundaries are important to children because they give clear messages about what’s expected. Children need the safety of familiar rules and routines.

Set and Communicate High Expectations – Express your certainty that your child can cope with the situation and faith in their strength and inner resources.  When children have clear, consistent boundaries and high expectations, the are more likely they are to grow up healthy, because boundaries and expectations provide children with the support they need.


In a crisis, children have similar feelings to adults. They often show their feelings in actions rather than words.

1–4 years: Thumb-sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark, clinging to parents, nightmares, not sleeping or broken sleep, loss of bladder or bowel control, speech or feeding problems, fear of being left alone, irritable, fretful

5–10 years: Aggression, confusion, competing for attention, avoiding school, nightmares, poor concentration, tummy aches, headaches, fear of the dark, fear of being hurt or left alone

11–13 years: Changes in appetite, broken sleep, antisocial behavior, school problems, anxiety, aches and pains, skin problems, fear of losing friends and family, acting as if it hasn’t happened.

14–18 years: Physical problems (rashes, bowel problems, asthma attacks, headaches), changes in appetite and sleep, lack of interest in things they usually enjoy, lack of energy, antisocial behavior, poor concentration, guilt. Some of these are part of the ups and downs of this age too.

Here are some helpful books to ready to children








A Terrible Thing Happened – A story for children who have witnessed violence or trauma

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death

 Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss


If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group you can contact her at: or 214-499-0396.

Dr Trotter also post regularly in her FaceBook fan page

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