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You are here: Third Culture Kids > Crisis-Trauma

Helping TCKs through Crisis and/or Trauma

You may find yourself at some point in time experiencing a crisis with your children. What can you do? How should you respond?

No one wants their children to go through a crisis or experience trauma. But in today's world, these things happen. Below are some suggestions for you to think about to help you better support and help your children through difficult times that might come their way.

Crisis/Trauma

Anyone can experience crises or trauma; you do not need to go overseas to do that. Some crises may be the same kind that someone in your passport country might encounter. Some may be very different. Think briefly of some crises/traumas that children in your home country might experience (ex. house burning).

Distinctives of Children in Crisis

As children move through a crisis, adults going through the experience alongside of them need to be aware of the following:

  • Children will be very dependent on the adults going through the experience with them; they are a very vulnerable population.
  • Children will readily accept as their own response a significant adult's response to what is happening. Parenting practices such as providing a protective environment, emotional warmth, talking about the event/disaster, encouraging the children's skills, interpersonal problem-solving, monitoring, etc., promotes children's resilience.1
  • Children have a lack of experience or knowledge to interpret the event accurately (emotional, informational, scientific).
  • Children will be unable to express their feelings in a meaningful way due to fear, unexplained over-reaction, and/or loss and grief.
  • The crisis has the potential to take away their innocence.
  • The crisis has the potential to have long-term impact on them because the children are in their formative years.
  • Some children might begin to show regressive behaviour.
  • A child's acceptance of help after a crisis is based on trust and the quality of the relationship with the caregiver.
  • Children are easily forgotten by the information network (the school or children's home might be the last ones to know).
  • Children are taken for granted during a crisis: rooms and beds are given to others.
  • Some children will develop an acceptance of false guilt.
  • The crisis may interrupt their education - the place, the schedule, the circumstances, etc.
  • Some children will feel responsible over the potential disruption of their parent's ministry if they speak out (especially true in abuse cases.)
  • When they need their parents the most, their parents are least available (teachers may be more available).
  • Children will worry about the event re-occurring or they might try to re-create the event.

Permission is granted to copy, but not for commercial purposes.


1 Research led by A. Gewirtz (Univ. of MN), published in "Journal of Marital & Family Therapy", April 2008.


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