Looking after yourself

Looking after yourself

Just as children cope in different ways following a trauma, so do parents. Some distress is perfectly normal at first. Even if you are very upset at first, in many cases you will begin to feel better over time. if you do not, you might consider getting support.

Here you will learn:

  • How your child’s trauma may affect you
  • How to help yourself recover
  • What to do if you continue to feel upset
  • When—and where—to seek help

Even if you weren’t there at the time, your child’s trauma may affect how you think, feel and behave. For example:


  • Having unwanted and distressing thoughts or memories
  • Intense nightmares or ‘flashbacks’ to the trauma
  • Avoiding thinking about what happened
  • Thinking you and those around you are very unsafe or vulnerable
  • Continuous worry about your own or your child’s recovery


  • Irritability and/or anger
  • Upset and/or distress
  • Finding it hard to feel happy 


  • Difficulty eating and/or sleeping
  • An overwhelming focus on keeping your child safe
  • Avoiding things that remind you of what happened

It can vary. You may find that:

  • You feel back to normal very quickly
  • You experience some of the reactions described but, things start to improve within a few weeks or months
  • You are so upset by your child’s trauma that your distress starts to interfere with your—and/or your child’s—daily life. For example, you may be unable to go to work, or stop your child taking part in activities or sports for fear they will come to harm.
  • Your difficulties do not go away and/or become worse with time

It is essential to look after yourself, even if you feel your first priority is your child. Here are some things that may help:

  • Talk to friends and family about your child’s trauma and how you feel
  • Make some time for yourself to do something you enjoy
  • Try to stick to your usual routine as much as possible
  • Ask for practical help if you need it—for example, with cooking, cleaning, childcare and so on
  • Don’t try to take on too much—no one expects you to be a child therapist
  • See your GP if you are struggling and need extra support

A ‘wait-and-see’ period of four weeks is usually recommended to give time for things to settle down on their own. Seek help or advice from your GP if you:

  • Are still feeling very distressed after four weeks
  • Are finding that your reactions are getting in the way of things you usually do or enjoy
  • Are not seeing any signs of improvement in your reactions

There is no clear answer to this, but being upset about what happened is normal. If your child sees you are upset or angry:

  • Reassure them that it is okay to feel upset sometimes but that you are doing okay
  • Explain why you are upset and tell them you should feel better soon

Even if you are extremely distressed, it doesn’t follow that your child is struggling too. If you think your own feelings could be making you more worried about your child, check with others how they think your child is coping.

If you still feeling overwhelmed by what happened and are not improving, speak to your GP about getting trauma-focused psychological therapy.

Parents can be strongly affected when something serious happens to their child. Although it is natural to want to put your child first, it is important to get help for yourself if you need it.

You can download short summaries of the information below, for younger children here and for older children and teens here.