Help Your Children Cope with Traumatic Events

News about catastrophic events, natural disasters, crime reports, and terrorist threats can have a profound emotional impact on children. Younger children, especially, are vulnerable in the wake of traumatic events and may experience stress, anxiety and increased fearfulness long after the event has passed. Your support can help your children process these emotions and help them manage their fear and anxiety.

Dr. Laurie Zelinger, Board Certified psychologist, credentialed play therapist/supervisor and author of several children’s books, developed an approach she calls P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom to help parents and caregivers navigate situations that require a response.

P.E.A.R.L.S. of Wisdom

The acronym “P-E-A-R-L-S” stands for: PREPARE, EXPLAIN, ANSWER, REASSURE, LISTEN, and SAFEGUARD. P-E-A-R-L-S is a framework to provide upsetting information in a palatable, developmentally appropriate, and reassuring way.

Prepare. Take any necessary precautions and safety measures (e.g., earthquake safety kit, emergency contact list, evacuation plan, etc.)
Explain. If your child asks why there’s a need to prepare or why everyone keeps talking about a particular topic, tell them, but keep it simple and age-appropriate. Start with just two or three sentences and see if that satisfies them.
Answer. If your child asks the same question more than once, try to stay consistent so they are reassured by the certainly of your response.
Reassure. Offer verbal reassurance and hugs and remind your children of the various ways everybody who cares for them is working to keep them safe.
Listen. Let your kids talk. Take mental notes of their concerns and confusions so you can calm them when possible.
Safeguard. Remind them of all the things you and those around them are doing to keep them safe.

Used with permission from Please Explain ‘Terrorism’ to Me: A Story for Children, P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom for Their Parents.  Copyright © 2016 by Laurie Zelinger. All Rights Reserved.

Learn more about the P-E-A-R-L-S approach in Dr. Zelinger’s children’s book, Please Explain Terrorism to Me: A Story for Children, P-E-A-R-L-S of Wisdom for Their Parents.

Dr. Zelinger’s book, Please Explain “Anxiety” To Me: Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents, helps kids (and parents) understand the biological and emotional components of anxiety in approachable, child-friendly language.

Source: Laurie Zelinger, PhD, ABPP, RPT-S | | © 2008-2020 Dr. Laurie Zelinger

To schedule an evaluation or to get advice about your child’s challenges, call or email a CHC Care Coordinator at 650.688.3625 or

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