Coping Strategies for Adults & Kids Following a Tragic Event | CFS

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By Sheryl Cowling

When confronted by an unexpected crisis that involves tragic violence, individuals will respond in their own unique ways given their personality and prior life experiences. Even so, many people find that they share some common reactions including shock, horror, sadness, anger, and anxiety.

Coping Strategies for Adults Following a Tragic Event

  • Talk about your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. Keeping negative emotions or disturbing thoughts bottled up inside only tends to make them more difficult to manage.
  • Limit the amount of media exposure pertaining to the incident. Balance being informed with being overwhelmed.
  • Make sure to take good care of yourself. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise.
  • Use positive coping strategies such as journaling, deep breathing, engaging in hobbies.
  • Participate in community-based activities in response to the tragedy, such as a prayer vigil. A sense of belonging to a community at such a time can be powerful.
  • Do something positive. (Overcome evil with good.) Send a note of appreciation to emergency first responders, thanking them for their selfless service. Make a donation to the victim(s). Volunteer with your church or another community-based organization that responds in times of crisis.
  • Pray. Ask God to comfort all those impacted by the incident.
  • Look to Scripture for encouragement. Read a devotion about overcoming trials. Meditate on parts of Scripture like Romans 8:28; Isaiah 43:1-3; or 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Coping Strategies for Kids Following a Tragic Event

Kids often have many questions and concerns following a tragedy or community violence. How parents respond to such incidents can greatly impact how children cope with the aftermath.

Here are some parenting tips:

  • Given that every child is a unique creation of God, parents should adjust their responses given each child’s age and developmental level.
  • Keep discussions of the details of the tragedy or violence to a minimum. Emphasize the measures taken to restore safety.
  • If your child has questions about the event, answer them honestly, but briefly.
  • Pay attention to your child’s feeling in response to the incident. Children, like adults, may feel sad, mad, worried, or confused. Validate these emotions as they are all appropriate under the circumstances.
  • Encourage positive coping skills such as talking, writing, drawing, praying, playing, and exercising, for example.
  • Younger children often benefit most from reassurance that parents and other adults such as police officers and firefighters are going to do everything possible to keep them safe.
  • Older children might want to offer to help. Channel their energy in positive ways, such as praying for victims and their families, sending cards of encouragement to those impacted, or donating a portion of their allowance.
  • Spend time reflecting on Scripture that reassures us that God is still in control, and has good plans for us. For example, read Jeremiah 29:11; John 16:33; Psalm 23:4; or Isaiah 41:10.


If you or someone you know is struggling with responding to a tragic event or natural disaster, please call 800-438-1772 to make an appointment with a counselor. You can also click here to request an appointment.

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