Entries for April 2015


ADD/ADHD – articles and other resources

While ADHD can create many challenges for both children and adults, it is possible to find ways to stay focused, turn chaos into calm, and manage the symptoms of distraction, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Hyperactive Father and Son

Attention deficit disorder—also known as ADHD or ADD—is not merely a problem with paying attention. Whether you’re a child or an adult, ADHD makes it difficult to manage the multiple tasks of daily life, especially complex tasks that require organization, planning, and sustained focus.

ADHD is challenging, but once you understand the problem and how it affects your (or your child’s) life, you can learn to compensate for areas of weakness and take advantage of your many strengths and talents.

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD is a disorder that affects both children and adults. It is identified by a persistent pattern of behavior across multiple settings that results in social, educational, or work difficulties. Symptoms include trouble sustaining attention, difficulty organizing tasks and activities, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.

Featured articles

Woman drinkingADHD in Children: It’s normal for children to occasionally forget things, act without thinking, or get fidgety. But inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are also signs of attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Learn how to spot the signs and symptoms and get the right help for your child. MORE »

Adult ADHD: Attention deficit disorder is not just a problem in children. It affects many adults, and the symptoms can get in the way of everything from your relationships to your career. The more you know about adult ADD, the more you can do to manage it. MORE »

ADHD Medications: Medication can help reduce symptoms of ADHD but there are side effects and other treatment options you also need to know about. Here’s what you need to know about ADHD medications in order to make an informed decision. MORE »

Topic articles

ADD/ADHD in children

ADD/ADHD in children and adults


Related topics

Learning disabilities

Whether you’re a full-time grandparent, a step-grandparent, or a long distance grandparent living thousands of miles away, you can find new ways to strengthen family ties and provide your grandchildren with joyful memories and valuable life lessons. MORE »

Exercise and fitness

Regular exercise can make a big difference when it comes to managing ADHD. Research shows that physical movement improves focus, attention span, memory, and the ability to switch between tasks, so start moving today! 

Supporting a Grieving Person

Helping Others Through Grief, Loss, and Bereavement

Supporting a Grieving PersonIn This Article

It’s often hard to know what to say or do when someone you care about is grieving. You may be afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, or making the person feel even worse. Or maybe you feel there’s little you can do to make things better. While you can’t take away the pain of the loss, you can provide much-needed comfort and support. There are many ways to help a grieving friend or family member, starting with letting the person know you care.

What you need to know about bereavement and grief

The death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. The bereaved struggle with many intense and frightening emotions, including depression, anger, and guilt. Often, he or she feels isolated and alone in his or her grief, but having someone to lean on can help him or her through the grieving process.

Don’t let discomfort prevent you from reaching out to someone grieving. Now, more than ever, your support is needed. You might not know exactly what to say or what to do, but that’s okay. You don’t need to have answers or give advice. The most important thing you can do for a grieving person is to simply be there; your support and caring presence will help him or her cope with the pain and begin to heal.

Understanding the grieving process

The better your understanding of grief and how it is healed, the better equipped you’ll be to help a bereaved friend or family member:

  • There is no right or wrong way to grieve.Grief does not always unfold in orderly, predictable stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with unpredictable highs, lows, and setbacks. Everyone grieves differently, so avoid telling the bereaved what he or she “should” be feeling or doing.
  • Grief may involve extreme emotions and behaviors. Feelings of guilt, anger, despair, and fear are common. A grieving person may yell to the heavens, obsess about the death, lash out at loved ones, or cry for hours on end. The bereaved need reassurance that what he or she feels is normal. Don’t judge them or take his or her grief reactions personally.
  • There is no set timetable for grieving. For many people, recovery after bereavement takes 18 to 24 months, but for others, the grieving process may be longer or shorter. Don’t pressure the bereaved to move on or make them feel like they’ve been grieving too long. This can actually slow the healing process.

What to say to someone who has lost a loved one

It is common to feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. Many people do not know what to say or do. The following are suggestions to use as a guide.

  • Acknowledge the situation. Example: "I heard that your_____ died." Use the word "died" That will show that you are more open to talk about how the person really feels.
  • Express your concern. Example: "I'm sorry to hear that this happened to you."
  • Be genuine in your communication and don't hide your feelings.Example: "I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care."
  • Offer your support. Example: "Tell me what I can do for you."
  • Ask how he or she feels, and don't assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day.

Source: American Cancer Society

Helping a grieving person tip 1: Listen with compassion

Almost everyone worries about what to say to a grieving person. But knowing how to listen is much more important. Oftentimes, well-meaning people avoid talking about the death or mentioning the deceased person, but the bereaved need to feel that his or her loss is acknowledged, it’s not too terrible to talk about, and his or her loved one won’t be forgotten.

While you should never try to force someone to open up, it’s important to let the bereaved know he or she has permission to talk about the loss. Talk candidly about the person who died and don’t steer away from the subject if the deceased’s name comes up. When it seems appropriate, ask sensitive questions—without being nosy—that invite the grieving person to openly express his or her feelings. Try simply asking, “Do you feel like talking?”

  • Accept and acknowledge all feelings. Let the grieving person know that it’s okay to cry in front of you, to get angry, or to break down. Don’t try to reason with him or her over how he or she should or shouldn’t feel. The bereaved should feel free to express his or her feelings without fear of judgment, argument, or criticism.

  • Be willing to sit in silence. Don’t press if the grieving person doesn’t feel like talking. You can offer comfort and support with your silent presence. If you can’t think of something to say, just offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.

  • Let the bereaved talk about how his or her loved one died. People who are grieving may need to tell the story over and over again, sometimes in minute detail. Be patient. Repeating the story is a way of processing and accepting the death. With each retelling, the pain lessens.

  • Offer comfort and reassurance without minimizing the loss. Tell the bereaved that what he or she is feeling is okay. If you’ve gone through a similar loss, share your own experience if you think it would help. However, don’t give unsolicited advice, claim to “know” what the person is feeling, or compare your grief to his or hers.

Comments to avoid when comforting the bereaved

  • "I know how you feel." One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your friend to tell you how he or she feels.
  • "It's part of God's plan." This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, "What plan? Nobody told me about any plan."
  • "Look at what you have to be thankful for." They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.
  • "He's in a better place now." The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
  • "This is behind you now; it's time to get on with your life." Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means "forgetting" his or her loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
  • Statements that begin with "You should" or "You will." These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: "Have you thought about..." or "You might..."

Source: American Hospice Foundation

Helping a grieving person tip 2: Offer practical assistance

It is difficult for many grieving people to ask for help. They might feel guilty about receiving so much attention, fear being a burden, or be too depressed to reach out. You can make it easier for them by making specific suggestions—such as, “I’m going to the market this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I’ve made beef stew for dinner. When can I come by and bring you some?”

Consistency is very helpful, if you can manage it—being there for as long as it takes. This helps the grieving person look forward to your attentiveness without having to make the additional effort of asking again and again. You can also convey an open invitation by saying, “Let me know what I can do,” which may make a grieving person feel more comfortable about asking for help. But keep in mind that the bereaved may not have the energy or motivation to call you when he or she needs something, so it’s better if you take the initiative to check in.

Be the one who takes the initiative

There are many practical ways you can help a grieving person. You can offer to:

  • Shop for groceries or run errands
  • Drop off a casserole or other type of food
  • Help with funeral arrangements
  • Stay in his or her home to take phone calls and receive guests
  • Help with insurance forms or bills
  • Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry
  • Watch his or her children or pick them up from school
  • Drive him or her wherever he or she needs to go
  • Look after his or her pets
  • Go with them to a support group meeting
  • Accompany them on a walk
  • Take them to lunch or a movie
  • Share an enjoyable activity (game, puzzle, art project)

Helping a grieving person tip 3: Provide ongoing support

Grieving continues long after the funeral is over and the cards and flowers have stopped. The length of the grieving process varies from person to person. But in general, grief lasts much longer than most people expect. Your bereaved friend or family member may need your support for months or even years.

  • Continue your support over the long haul. Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending letters or cards. Your support is more valuable than ever once the funeral is over, the other mourners are gone, and the initial shock of the loss has worn off.

  • Don’t make assumptions based on outward appearances. The bereaved person may look fine on the outside, while inside he or she is suffering. Avoid saying things like “You are so strong” or “You look so well.” This puts pressure on the person to keep up appearances and to hide his or her true feelings.

  • The pain of bereavement may never fully heal. Be sensitive to the fact that life may never feel the same. You don’t “get over” the death of a loved one. The bereaved person may learn to accept the loss. The pain may lessen in intensity over time, but the sadness may never completely go away.

  • Offer extra support on special days.Certain times and days of the year will be particularly hard for your grieving friend or family member. Holidays, family milestones, birthdays, and anniversaries often reawaken grief. Be sensitive on these occasions. Let the bereaved person know that you’re there for whatever he or she needs.

Helping a grieving person tip 4: Watch for warning signs

It’s common for a grieving person to feel depressed, confused, disconnected from others, or like he or she is going crazy. But if the bereaved person’s symptoms don’t gradually start to fade—or they get worse with time—this may be a sign that normal grief has evolved into a more serious problem, such as clinical depression.

Encourage the grieving person to seek professional help if you observe any of the following warning signs after the initial grieving period—especially if it’s been over two months since the death.

  • Difficulty functioning in daily life
  • Extreme focus on the death
  • Excessive bitterness, anger, or guilt
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Hallucinations
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Constant feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about dying or suicide

It can be tricky to bring up your concerns to the bereaved person as you don’t want to perceived as invasive. Instead of telling the person what to do, try stating your own feelings: “ I am troubled by the fact that you aren’t sleeping—perhaps you should look into getting help. ”

Take talk of suicide very seriously

If a grieving friend or family member talks about suicide, get professional help right away. IN A LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY, CALL 911 OR YOUR COUNTRY'S EMERGENCY SERVICE NUMBER.

To learn more about the warning signs, see Suicide Prevention.

Supporting a child through grief and bereavement

Even very young children feel the pain of bereavement, but they learn how to express his or her grief by watching the adults around them. After a loss—particularly of a sibling or parent—children need support, stability, and honesty. They may also need extra reassurance that they will be cared for and kept safe. As an adult, you can support children through the grieving process by demonstrating that it’s okay to be sad and helping them make sense of the loss.

Answer any questions the child may have as truthfully as you can. Use very simple, honest, and concrete terms when explaining death to a child. Children—especially young children—may blame themselves for what happened and the truth helps them see they are not at fault.

Open communication will smooth the way for a child to express distressing feelings. Because children often express themselves through stories, games, and artwork, encourage this self-expression, and look for clues in those activities about how they are coping.

How to help a grieving child:

  • Allow your child, however young, to attend the funeral if he or she wants to.
  • Convey your spiritual values about life and death, or pray with your child.
  • Meet regularly as a family to find out how everyone is coping.
  • Help children find ways to symbolize and memorialize the deceased person.
  • Keep your child’s daily routine as normal as possible.
  • Pay attention to the way a child plays; this can be one of a child’s primary ways of communicating.

What not to do:

  • Don’t force a child to publicly mourn if he or she doesn’t want to.
  • Don’t give false or confusing messages, like “Grandma is sleeping now.”
  • Don’t tell a child to stop crying because others might get upset.
  • Don’t try to shield a child from the loss. Children pick up on much more than adults realize. Including them in the grieving process will help them adapt and heal.
  • Don’t stifle your tears; by crying in front of your child, you send the message that it’s okay for him or her to express feelings, too.
  • Don't turn your child into your personal confidante. Rely on another adult or a support group instead.

More help for supporting a grieving person

Resources and references

General information on helping the bereaved

Grief: How to Support the Bereaved – Learn how to help in the first few days, how to listen with compassion, comments to avoid, and practical help you can give. (Better Health Channel)

How to Help a Grieving Person and Things Not to Do give practical guidance on how to support the bereaved through the grieving process. (

How to Help a Grieving Person – Series of articles on bereavement support, including how to help parents, families, friends, and co-workers. (Journey of Hearts)

Coping with the Death of a Loved One (PDF) – Information on the grieving process including what to say to someone who is grieving. (American Cancer Society)

Helping a grieving parent

Helping a Grieving Parent – Offers advice on how to comfort your surviving parent, while also dealing with your own grief. (American Hospice Foundation)

When an Employee is Grieving the Death of a Child – Helpful article on how employers can help a grieving employee who has lost a child. (The Compassionate Friends)

When a Coworker is Grieving the Death of a Child – Article covers how co-workers can help when someone they work with has lost a child. (The Compassionate Friends)

Helping a grieving child

Helping Your Child Deal With Death – Provides clear and simple suggestions for helping children understand and cope with the death of a loved one. (Nemours Foundation)

Caring for Surviving Children – Advice for parents on how to care for his or her surviving children after the death of another child in the family. (The Compassionate Friends)

Guidelines for Parents to Help Their Children Through Grief – Tips on how parents can help and support children who are grieving. (American Hospice Foundation)

The Grieving Teen – Describes how teens grieve and how to help through peer counseling and grief support groups. (American Hospice Foundation)

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: April 2015.


Anxiety – articles and other resources

There are many different forms of anxiety—and many different ways to overcome the problem. Explore the various types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms, and what you can do to get relief.

Anxious Woman on the Phone

Anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can motivate you and help you stay focused under pressure. But when worries, fears, or panic attacks start to get in the way of your life, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. But peace of mind may not be as far away as you think. There are many things you can do to get your anxiety in check and regain control of your life.

What is an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Most of us have worried or felt nervous when facing challenges, making important decisions, or preparing for a big presentation, performance, or exam. But anxiety disorders are different. They involve persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened—and they interfere with your quality of life. There are many different anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder. As a group, anxiety disorders represent the most common mental health concern in the U.S. 

Featured articles

Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks: Learn about the signs and symptoms of anxiety and the different types of anxiety disorders. Once you’ve identified the problem, explore treatments and self-help strategies that can help you regain peace of mind. More »

How to Stop Worrying: Are you plagued by anxious thoughts and near-constant worries? Learn self-help strategies that can help you stay calm, stop obsessing over “what-ifs,” accept uncertainty, and break the habit of chronic worrying. MORE »

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder that involves chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. Learn about the symptoms and what you can do put a stop to the anxiety loop. MORE »

Topic articles

Types of anxiety disorders

Anxiety treatment and self-help

Related issues

Related topics

Exercise and fitness

Exercising regularly isn’t just good for your physical health. It can also relieve anxiety and boost your brain’s calming, feel-good chemicals. And you don’t have to spend long, boring hours in a gym to reap these benefits. Whatever your age, health limitations, or fitness levels, you can develop an exercise program that’s fun and rewarding and fits your life. MORE »


Stress can easily creep up on you so that being frazzled and overwhelmed starts to feel normal. You may not realize how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll on your mind, body, and behavior. You can protect yourself by learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress overload and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects. MORE »

Dealing with Bullying

Helping Bullied Kids and Teens

Deal with a Bully & Overcome Bullying In This Article

Unless you’ve directly experienced bullying, you may not realize just how devastating it can be, especially to a child or teenager. As well as being deeply hurtful, bullying can leave anyone feeling frightened, angry, depressed, and totally undermined. But bullying should never be tolerated. Whether you’re the one being bullied, or you’re a teacher or parent who thinks their child is being bullied or engaged in bullying behavior, there are steps you can take to deal with the problem.

Bullying and Suicide

If bullying means you, or someone you know, feels suicidal, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) in the U.S., or visit IASP or to find a helpline in your country.

What is bullying?

Bullying is repeated aggressive behavior that can be physical, verbal, or relational. Boys frequently bully using physical threats and actions, while girls are more likely to engage in verbal or relationship bullying. The results are similar:

  • You are made to feel hurt, angry, afraid, helpless, hopeless, isolated, ashamed, and even guilty that the bullying is somehow your fault. You may even feel suicidal.
  • Your physical health is likely to suffer, and you are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or adult onset PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
  • You’re more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school to avoid being bullied.

Need help with online or cyber-bullying?

If a bully is harassing, threatening, or humiliating you or someone you love by using computers, cell phones, or social networking sites, read Dealing With Cyber-Bullying.

The most damaging aspect of bullying is its repetition. Bullies are often relentless, bullying over and over again for long periods of time. You may live in constant fear of where and when the bully will strike next, what they’ll do, and how far they’ll go.

Types of Bullying
Physical bullying:
Physical Bullying
  • Hitting, kicking, or pushing someone...or even just threatening to do it
  • Stealing, hiding, or ruining someone's things
  • Hazing, harassment, humiliation. Making someone do things he or she doesn't want to do.
Verbal bullying:
Verbal Bullying
  • Name-calling
  • Teasing, taunting
  • Insulting or otherwise verbally abusing someone
Relationship bullying:
Relationship Bullying
  • Refusing to talk to someone
  • Excluding someone from groups or activities
  • Spreading lies or rumors about someone
  • Hazing, harassment, humiliation. Making someone do things he or she doesn't want to do
Adapted from: PBS Kids - It's My Life

Why a bully might be targeting you

Why Kids Bully

Research shows that about 25 percent of kids experience bullying, so you’re not alone. While there are many reasons why bullies may be targeting you, the main reasons are usually your physical appearance or social standing within your peer group.

Bullies tend to pick on people who are “different” or don’t fit in with the mainstream. It may be because of how you dress, act, or because of your race, religion, or sexual orientation. It may simply be that you’re new to the school or neighborhood and haven’t made friends yet.

Gay and lesbian youths are particularly at risk of bullying. If you need help, call:

  • In the U.S.: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386)
  • In Canada: 1-877-OUT-IS-OK (688-1765)
  • In the UK: 0207 837 7324
  • In Australia: 1800 184 527
  • In New Zealand: (04) 473 7878

If you are being bullied, remember:

  • Don’t blame yourself. It is not your fault. No matter what someone says or does, you should not be ashamed of who you are or what you feel.
  • Be proud of who you are. Despite what a bully says, there are many wonderful things about you. Keep those in mind instead of the messages you hear from bullies.
  • Get help. Talk to a parent, teacher, counselor, or other trusted adult. Seeing a counselor does not mean there is something wrong with you.
  • Learn to deal with stress. Finding ways to relieve stress can make you more resilient so you won’t feel overwhelmed by bullying. Exercise, meditation, positive self-talk, muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises are all good ways to manage the stress from bullying.

Tips for dealing with a bully and overcoming bullying

There is no single solution to bullying or best way to handle a bully. It may take some experimenting with a variety of different responses to find the strategy that works best for your situation. To defeat a bully, you need to retain your self-control and preserve your sense of self.

Tip #1: Understand the truth about bullying

  • Walk away from the bully. Bullies want to know they have control over your emotions so don’t react with anger or retaliate with physical force. If you walk away, ignore them, or calmly and assertively tell them you’re not interested in what they have to say, you’re demonstrating that they don’t have control over you.
  • Protect yourself. If you can’t walk away and are being physically hurt, protect yourself so you can get away. Your safety is the first priority.
  • Report the bullying to a trusted adult. If you don’t report threats and assaults, a bully will often become more and more aggressive. In many cases adults can find ways to help with the problem without letting the bully know it was you who reported them.
  • Repeat as necessary. Like the bully, you may have to be relentless. Report each and every bullying incident until it stops. There is no reason for you to ever put up with bullying.

Tip #2: Reframe the problem of bullying

By changing your attitude towards bullying you can help regain a sense of control.

  • Try to view bullying from a different perspective. The bully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
  • Look at the big picture. Bullying can be extremely painful, but try asking yourself how important it will seem to you in the long run. Will it matter in a year? Is it worth getting so upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
  • Focus on the positive. Reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. Make a list and refer to it whenever you feel down.
  • Find the humor. If you’re relaxed enough to recognize the absurdity of a bullying situation, and to comment on it with humor, you’ll likely no longer be an interesting target for a bully.
  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control—including the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to bullies.

Tip #3: Find support from those who don't bully

Having trusted people you can turn to for encouragement and support will boost your resilience when being bullied. Reach out to connect with family and real friends (those who don’t participate in bullying) or explore ways of making new friends. There are plenty of people who will love and appreciate you for who you are.

  • Find others who share your same values and interests. You may be able to make friends at a youth group, book club, or religious organization. Learn a new sport, join a team, or take up a new hobby such as chess, art, or music.
  • Share your feelings. Talk to a parent, counselor, coach, religious leader, or trusted friend. Expressing what you’re going through can make a huge difference to the way you feel, even if it doesn’t change the situation.
  • Boost your confidence. Exercise is a great way to help you feel good about yourself, as well as reduce stress. Punch a mattress or take a kick boxing class to work off your anger.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t make a bullying incident worse by dwelling on it or replaying it over and over in your head. Instead, focus on positive experiences you’ve had.

Tips to help parents and teachers to identify a bully and stop bullying

Teachers and parents of both the bullied and the bullies can play a crucial role in preventing, identifying, and stopping bullying. Creating safe, stress-free environments at home and at school can help prevent the tension and anxiety that can lead to bullying.

Despite how widespread the problem has become, many parents and teachers still have some misconceptions about bullying.

Myths & Facts about Bullying

MYTH: It's only bullying if the child is physically hurt. Words can't hurt.

FACT: Children have killed each other and committed suicide after being involved in verbal, relationship, or cyber-bullying. Words do hurt and they can have a devastating effect on the emotional wellbeing of a child or teen.

MYTH: My child would never be a bully.

FACT: All kids make mistakes; it’s part of growing up. Parents who deny the possibility that their child is capable of being hurtful make it harder for bullies to get the help they need.

MYTH: Bullies are simply bad people and should be expelled from school.

FACT: There are a lot of reasons why children bully. Some are bullied themselves, at home or elsewhere, others bully only when they feel stressed or overwhelmed

MYTH: Kids can be either bullies or victims, not both.

FACT: Kids can often change roles, going from victim to bully and back again. For example, a bully in fifth grade may be a victim when he moves to middle school, or a victim in the playground can take revenge and become the bully online.

Tip #2: Spot the warning signs that a child or teen is being bullied

If a child is being bullied it may not be obvious to a parent or teacher. Most bullying occurs away from adults, when kids are alone in hallways or on the way home from school, for example. Bullies tend to be adept at hiding their behavior from adults and bullying victims will often cover up evidence because of a sense of shame at being victimized.

Warning Signs of Bullying

Tip #3: Take steps to stop bullying

  • Talk to kids about bullying. Just talking about the problem can be a huge stress reliever for someone who’s being bullied. Be supportive and listen to a child’s feelings without judgment, criticism, or blame.
  • Remove the bait. If your child is targeted by a bully for his or her lunch money, phone, or iPod, for example, suggest your child packs a lunch for school and leaves the gadgets at home.
  • Find help for a child who’s afraid of a bully. Make sure other teachers, coaches, and counselors know the child is being bullied. No child should have to handle bullying alone.
  • Help the bullied child avoid isolation. Kids with friends are better equipped to handle bullying. Find ways to increase their social circle, via youth or religious groups or clubs, for example.

If your child is a bully

It can be difficult for any parent to learn that their child is bullying others. The sooner you address the problem, though, the better chance you have of avoiding the long-term effects this behavior can have on a child. People who bully others:

  • Have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.
  • Are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school.
  • Are twice as likely as their peers to have criminal convictions as adults and four times more likely to be multiple offenders.
  • Are more likely as adults to be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children.

Warning signs your child may be a bully

Your child:

  • Frequently becomes violent with others
  • Gets into physical or verbal fights with others
  • Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot
  • Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained
  • Is quick to blame others
  • Will not accept responsibility for his or her actions
  • Has friends who bully others
  • Needs to win or be best at everything


Bullying is often a learned behavior

Bullies can learn aggressive behavior from their experiences at home. Research suggests that some kids and teens may become more aggressive by playing violent video games. While it’s a controversial subject, parents should monitor the amount of violent content their children are exposed to via TV, movies, or video games.

As a parent, you may be setting a bad example for your kids by spanking or otherwise striking them, verbally or physically abusing your spouse, or by displaying bullying behavior such as:

  • Abusing your child’s sports coach, umpires and referees, or members of the opposing team.
  • Swearing at other drivers on the road.
  • Humiliating a waitress, shop assistant, or cab driver who makes a mistake.
  • Talking negatively about other students, parents, or teachers so that your child thinks it’s acceptable to use verbal abuse to intimidate others.

Tips for parents dealing with a bullying child

  • Learn about your child's life. If your behavior at home isn't negatively influencing your child, it's possible his or her friends or peers are encouraging the bullying behavior. Your child may be struggling to fit in or develop relationships with other kids. Talk to your child. The more understand about his or her life, the easier you'll be able to identify the source of the problem.
  • Educate your child about bullying. Your child may have difficulty reading social signs or may not understand how hurtful and damaging their behavior can be. Foster empathy and awareness by encouraging your child to look at their actions from the victim’s perspective. Remind your child that bullying can have legal consequences.
  • Manage stress. Teach your child positive ways to manage stress. Your child’s bullying may be an attempt at relieving stress. Or your own stress, anxiety, or worry may be creating an unstable home environment. Exercise, spending time in nature, or playing with a pet are great ways for both kids and adults to let off steam and relieve stress.
  • Set limits with technology. Let your child know you’ll be monitoring his or her use of computers, email, and text messaging. Limit the amount of time they spend playing video games and watching TV. Numerous studies reveal that many popular TV shows and violent video games celebrate negative values, reduce empathy, and encourage aggression in kids.
  • Establish consistent rules of behavior. Make sure your child understands your rules and the punishment for breaking them. Children may not think they need discipline, but a lack of boundaries sends a signal that the child is unworthy of the parents’ time, care, and attention.

Moving on after being bullied

Bullying can be a traumatic event for anyone. Even when the bullying stops, you may be left with feelings of fear, helplessness, anger, or anxiety. Your first instinct may be to withdraw from others. However, isolation will only make things worse. Connecting to others who don’t participate in bullying will help you heal. Make an effort to maintain your positive relationships and avoid spending too much time alone.

  • Give yourself time to heal from the trauma of bullying. Don’t try to force the healing process and be prepared for difficult and volatile emotions. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling without judgment or guilt. Talking to a trusted friend, family member or school counselor can help.
  • Overcome feelings of helplessness. You can foster a sense of hope and control by reaching out to others who are being bullied, being active in your school’s campaign to stop bullying, writing thank you messages to people who have helped you, or by volunteering in some other way. As well as helping other people or animals, volunteering can even help to put some of your own problems into perspective.
  • Manage anger in positive ways. Don’t let your anger lead you to seek revenge or target others by becoming a bully yourself. Instead, find healthy ways to manage your anger and learn safe ways to cool down.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. A healthy body increases your ability to cope with stress from the trauma of being bullied.

Returning to school after being bullied

Returning to school and having to face those who have bullied you can be a frightening prospect. You may want to avoid or change schools, or opt for home schooling. But this can disrupt your education, cut you off from current friends, and limit future social opportunities. Unfortunately, every school has bullies so changing schools may not always be the best solution.

  • Instead of focusing on the people and things you don't like about school, try to focus on the people and aspects of school that you do enjoy.
  • By reporting bullying and involving the school, you may be able to change some classes to keep you away from those who bullied you. If that’s not possible, a sympathetic teacher can at least help you find a different place to sit in class, away from the bully.
  • Finding new afterschool activities, such as joining a drama club or sports team, can offer you ways to enjoy a fresh start with a new group of friends.
  • Making fun plans for weekends, evenings, and school vacations will mean that you always have things to look forward to and aren’t focused on what happened in the past.
  • You're probably not the only student in your school who has been bullied. If you see someone else on his or her own or feeling isolated, try to start a conversation. You may be able to help each other heal.

Recovering from bullying can take time, and everyone heals at his or her own pace. But if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, you may need professional help from a therapist or trauma expert.

More help for dealing with a bully

Resouces and references

General bullying links

Stop Bullying Now! – Information about bullying and strategies to make it stop. (StopBullyingNow)

Stop Bullying – Provides information from various US government agencies on how kids, teens, young adults, parents, educators, and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying. (

It's My Life – How bullying works and what kids can do about. (PBS Kids)

Dealing With Bullying – Help for teenagers in dealing with bullies and bullying. (Teens Health)

Bullying at School and Online – How to spot bullies and victims, and how to protect yourself or your child. (

Bullying UK – Advice and support for students, parents, teachers, and those being bullied at work. (Bullying UK)

Help for parents and teachers in dealing with bullying and cyber-bullying

Raising Children to Resist Violence – How parents, family members, and others who care for children can help them learn to deal with emotions without using violence. (APA)

Take Action to Prevent Bullying – Help for parents, teachers, and kids in preventing and stopping bullying. (APA)

Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers – Information on building resilience in children to shield them against emotional hurt from experiences such as bullying. (APA)

Sexual orientation and bullying

It Gets Better – Collection of videos for LGBT kids and teens who have to hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. (It Gets Better Project)

The Trevor Project – Organization helping LBGT teens and young adults who feel suicidal by providing resources and a nationwide, 24-hour hotline at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). (The Trevor Project)

Getting help for a bully

Teaching Kids Not to Bully – Understanding bullying behavior in children and how to help kids stops bullying. (KidsHealth)

How Not to Raise a Bully – Article that discusses how teaching empathy in kids from an early age may prevent bullying. (Time Magazine)

Authors: Lawrence Robinson and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: April 2015.

Traumatic Stress

How to Recover From Disasters and Other Traumatic Events

Emotional and Psychological Trauma In This Article

The impact of a natural disaster or traumatic event goes far beyond physical damage. The emotional toll can result in a wide range of intense, confusing, and sometimes frightening emotions. Just as it takes time to clear the rubble and repair the damage, it takes time to recover your emotional equilibrium and rebuild your life. There are specific things you can do to help yourself and your loved ones cope with the emotional aftermath of the traumatic event.

The emotional aftermath of traumatic events

Natural disasters and other catastrophic events, such as motor vehicle accidents, plane crashes, nuclear meltdowns, and terrorist attacks, are extraordinarily stressful—both to survivors and observers. Such disasters shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world. Whether or not you were directly impacted by the traumatic event, it’s normal to feel anxious, scared, and uncertain about what the future may bring.

Usually, these unsettling thoughts and feelings fade as life starts to return to normal. You can assist the process by keeping the following in mind:

People react in different ways to disasters and traumatic events. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, feel, or respond. Be tolerant of your own reactions and feelings, as well as the reactions and feelings of others. Don’t tell yourself (or anyone else) what you should be thinking, feeling, or doing.

Avoid obsessively thinking about the disastrous event. Repetitious thinking about fearful or painful experiences can overwhelm your nervous system trigger making it harder to think clearly and act appropriately.

Ignoring your feelings will slow the healing process. It may seem better in the moment to avoid experiencing your emotions, but they exist whether you're paying attention to them or not. Even intense feelings will pass if you simply allow yourself to feel what you feel—and you’ll feel better afterwards.

Talking about what you feel may be difficult, but it will help you heal. Just as you may find it difficult to face your feelings head on, you may also find it difficult to express those feelings to others. But getting them out is essential. Talking with a calm, caring person is best, but expressing your feelings through journaling, art, and other creative outlets can also help.

Common reactions to trauma and disaster

Following a traumatic event, it’s normal to feel a wide range of intense emotions and physical reactions. These emotional reactions often come and go in waves. There may be times when you feel jumpy and anxious, and other times when you feel disconnected and numb.

Normal emotional responses to traumatic events

  • Shock and disbelief – you may have a hard time accepting the reality of what happened
  • Fear – that the same thing will happen again, or that you’ll lose control or break down
  • Sadness – particularly if people you know died
  • Helplessness – the sudden, unpredictable nature of natural disasters and accidents may leave you feeling vulnerable and helpless
  • Guilt – that you survived when others died, or that you could have done more to help or prevent the situation
  • Anger – you may be angry at God or others you feel are responsible
  • Shame – especially over feelings or fears you can’t control
  • Relief – you may feel relieved that the worst is over, and even hopeful that your life will return to normal

Normal physical stress responses to traumatic events

The symptoms of traumatic stress are not just emotional—they’re also physical. It’s important to know what the physical symptoms of stress look like, so they don’t scare you. They will go away if you don’t fight them:

  • Trembling or shaking
  • Pounding heart
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lump in throat; feeling choked up
  • Stomach tightening or churning
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Cold sweats
  • Racing thoughts

Disaster recovery tip 1: Seek comfort and support

Natural disasters and other traumatic events turn your world upside down and shatter your sense of safety. In the aftermath, taking even small steps towards restoring safety and comfort can make a big difference.

Being proactive about your own and your family’s situation and well-being (rather than passively waiting for someone else to help you) will help you feel less powerless and vulnerable. Focus on anything that helps you feel more calm, centered, and in control.

Reestablish a routine

There is comfort in the familiar. After a disaster, getting back—as much as possible—to your normal routine, will help you minimize traumatic stress, anxiety, and hopelessness. Even if your work or school routine is disrupted, you can structure your day with regular times for eating, sleeping, spending time with family, and relaxing.

Do things that keep your mind occupied (read, watch a movie, cook, play with your kids), so you’re not dedicating all your energy and attention to the traumatic event.

Connect with others

You may be tempted to withdraw from social activities and avoid others after experiencing a traumatic event or natural disaster. But it’s important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. Support from other people is vital to recovery from traumatic stress, so lean on your close friends and family members during this tough time.

  • Spend time with loved ones.
  • Connect with other survivors of the traumatic event or disaster.
  • Do “normal” things with other people, things that have nothing to do with the disaster.
  • Participate in memorials, events, and other public rituals.
  • Take advantage of existing support groups: your church, community organizations, and tight-knit groups of family and friends.

Challenge your sense of helplessness

Trauma leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable. It’s important to remind yourself that you have strengths and coping skills that can get you through tough times.

One of the best ways to reclaim your sense of power is by helping others. Taking positive action directly challenges the sense of helplessness that contributes to trauma:

  • comfort someone else
  • volunteer your time

  • give blood
  • donate to your favorite charity

Disaster recovery tip 2: Minimize media exposure

In the wake of a traumatic event or disaster, it’s important to protect yourself and your loved ones from unnecessary exposure to additional trauma and reminders of the traumatic event.

While some people regain a sense of control by watching media coverage of the event or observing the recovery effort, others find the reminders upsetting. Excessive exposure may be further traumatizing—in fact, retraumatization is common.

  • Limit your media exposure to the disaster. Do not watch the news just before bed. Take a complete break if the coverage is making you feel overwhelmed
  • Information gathering is healthy, but try to avoid morbid preoccupation with distressing images and video clips. Read the newspaper or magazines rather than watching television.
  • Protect your children from seeing or hearing unnecessary reminders of the disaster or traumatic event
  • After viewing disaster coverage, talk with your loved ones about the footage and what you’re feeling

Disaster recovery tip 3: Acknowledge and accept your feelings

After a traumatic event, you may experience all kinds of difficult and surprising emotions, such as shock, anger, and guilt. Sometimes it may seem like the sadness and anxiety will never let up.

Sadness, grief, anger and fear are normal reactions to the loss of safety and security (as well as life, limb, and property) that comes in the wake of a disaster. Accepting these feelings as part of the grieving process, and allowing yourself to feel what you feel, is necessary for healing.

Dealing with traumatic grief and other painful emotions

  • Give yourself time to heal and to mourn the losses you’ve experienced.
  • Don’t try to force the healing process.
  • Be patient with the pace of recovery.
  • Be prepared for difficult and volatile emotions.
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling without judgment or guilt.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what you’re feeling.

An exercise to help you feel grounded in times of emotional stress and turmoil

Sit on a chair, feel your feet on the ground, press on your thighs, feel your behind on the seat, and your back supported by the chair; look around you and pick six objects that have red or blue. This should allow you to feel in the present, more grounded and in your body. Notice how your breath gets deeper and calmer. You may want to go outdoors and find a peaceful place to sit on the grass. As you do, feel how your bottom can be held and support by the ground.

Source: Emotional First Aid, Gina Ross, MFCC, and Peter Levine, Ph.D.

Disaster recovery tip 4: Make stress reduction a priority

Almost everyone experiences signs of stress after going through a traumatic event. While a certain amount of stress is normal, and even helpful, as you face the challenges that come in the aftermath of a disaster, too much stress will get in the way of recovery.

Relaxation is a necessity, not a luxury

Traumatic stress takes a heavy toll on your mental and physical health. Making time for rest and relaxation will help you bring your brain and body back into balance.

  • Do relaxing activities such as meditating, listening to soothing music, walking in a beautiful place, or visualizing a favorite spot.
  • Schedule time for activities that bring you joy—a favorite hobby or pastime, a chat with a cherished friend.
  • Use your downtime to relax. Savor a good meal, read a bestseller, take a bath, or enjoy an uplifting or funny movie.

How sleep can reduce traumatic stress

After experiencing a traumatic event, you may find it difficult to sleep. Worries and fears may keep you up at night or disturbing dreams may trouble you. Getting quality rest after a disaster is essential, since lack of sleep places considerable stress on your mind and body, and makes it more difficult to maintain your emotional balance.

As you work through the trauma-related stress, your sleep problems should disappear. But in the meantime, you can improve your sleep with the following strategies:

  • Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.
  • Limit drinking, as alcohol disrupts sleep.
  • Do something relaxing before bed, like listening to soothing music, reading a book, or meditating.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
  • Get regular exercise—but not too close to bedtime.

When to seek help for traumatic stress

As mentioned above, a wide range of emotional reactions are common after a disaster or traumatic event, including anxiety, numbness, confusion, guilt, and despair. In and of themselves, these emotions aren’t cause for undue alarm. Most will start to fade within a relatively short time.

However, if your traumatic stress reaction is so intense and persistent that it’s getting in the way of your ability to function, you may need help from a mental health professional—preferably a trauma specialist.

Traumatic stress warning signs

  • It's been 6 weeks, and you're not feeling any better
  • You’ve having trouble functioning at home and work
  • You’re experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • You’re having an increasingly difficult time connecting and relating to others
  • You’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings
  • You’re avoiding more and more things that remind you of the disaster or traumatic event

Helping children cope with traumatic stress

Comforting Child

After a disaster or traumatic event, children need extra reassurance and support. Do your best to create an environment where your kids feel safe to communicate what they’re feeling and to ask questions.

While you should tailor the information you share according to the child’s age, it’s important to be honest. Don’t say nothing’s wrong if something is wrong, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Tips for helping children heal after a disaster

  • Provide your kids with ongoing opportunities to talk about what they went through or what they’re seeing on TV. Encourage them to ask questions and express their concerns. Make it clear that there are no bad feelings.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to admit it. Don’t jeopardize your child’s trust in you by making something up.
  • The traumatic event or disaster may trigger or bring up unrelated fears and issues in your kids. Acknowledge and validate these concerns, even if they don’t seem relevant to you.
  • Monitor television watching. Limit your child’s exposure to graphic images and videos. As much as you can, watch news reports of the disaster with your children. This will give you a good opportunity to talk and answer questions.
  • Remember that children often personalize situations. They may worry about their own safety or that of their family, even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure your child and help him or her place the situation in context.
  • Watch for physical signs of stress. The symptoms of traumatic stress may appear as physical complaints such as headaches, stomach pains, or sleep disturbances.

More help for traumatic stress

Resources and references

General information about emotional and psychological trauma

Common Reactions After Trauma – Guide to the common symptoms, effects, and problems that can result from emotional or psychological trauma. (National Center for PTSD)

What is Psychological Trauma? – In-depth introduction to emotional or psychological trauma, including the causes, symptoms, treatments, and effects. (Sidran Institute)

Emotional Aid (PDF) – Self-help steps to take in dealing with traumatic stress. (Volunteer Today)

Trauma treatment and therapy

How to Choose a Therapist for Post-Traumatic Stress and Dissociative Conditions – Advice on how to choose a trauma therapist. (Sidran Institute)

Trauma is Treated in the Body, Not the Mind – Article by trauma expert Peter Levine on how to heal trauma using a natural, body-based approach. (Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute)

A Brief Description of EMDR Therapy – Covers the eight phases of EMDR therapy involved in the treatment of trauma. (EMDR Network)

Trauma recovery and self-help

Recovering from Trauma – Article on the necessity of processing emotional trauma in treatment if we are to recover and heal. (Psychology Today)

Dealing With the Effects of Trauma: A Self-Help Guide (PDF) – Guide to the healing journey, including coping strategies, where to find help for emotional trauma, and how to support recovery. (SAMHSA’s National Mental Health Information Center)

Trauma in children and adolescents

Helping a Child Manage Fears – Article on helping a child cope with traumatic events. Includes tips for helping your child and a list of common childhood reactions to trauma. (Sidran Institute)

Understanding Child Traumatic Stress – Learn how emotional or psychological trauma in children differs from trauma in adult. Includes causes, symptoms, and recovery factors. (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network)

Delving deeper into psychological and emotional trauma

Trauma, Attachment, and Stress Disorders: Rethinking and Reworking Developmental Issues – Explains the brain-based view of emotional trauma and how it affects child development. (Trauma Resources)

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: April 2015.

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