The October Childhood Trauma Newsletter – What a Trauma Therapist Would Say to Children About War

My heart is in pieces because of the horrific violence taking place overseas. It feels uncomfortable to send this newsletter at a time like this. I know many of you are hurting, scared, and overwhelmed by the images and stories pouring out of the news. I am with you. I am fortunate to live in a safe place, and that privilege is not lost on me. I want to remind you that it is okay to take a break from absorbing the trauma in the media to maintain your strength in your corner of the world. Yes, we MUST pay attention and know what’s happening, but we must also protect our mental health for our children’s sake. I know that’s impossible for those living in war-torn countries, and if you are reading this, please know we are devastated by what’s happening and wish we could do more to stop it.

I didn’t plan to focus this edition of the Childhood Trauma Newsletter on how to talk to children about terrorism and violence, but the events in Israel and Gaza are potentially traumatizing to young children, and I feel compelled to share how to support them through this. I guarantee this guidance won’t feel good enough. When my five-year-old found out about school shootings, it definitely didn’t feel good enough to me. But at times like this, we must do our best with what we have and accept that, in some circumstances, words will never be enough.

Trauma Tips

How to talk to children about war and terrorism, from a trauma therapist.

Nobody wants to talk to young children about the violence in our world, and I get it. As a trauma therapist, I fall into a small category of people who are willing to broach these subjects with little ones. I don’t do it because it’s any easier for me than for you. I do it because I know from experience they will likely find out anyway, and sitting alone with this information can be harmful.

One of the biggest problems I see with children learning about violence is not knowing it exists. They usually already know that. The biggest problem is that they hear inaccurate information, and then their imagination kicks in and creates more stories. They often learn bits and pieces of what’s going on from different sources and can mistakenly believe that the conflict is taking place in their community or country. The truth of our world is painful, but we can’t always shield our children from discovering the horrific truth (as much as we would like to).

To prevent trauma, we must provide them with a safe person to talk to about their feelings and ensure they have the correct, age-appropriate information. Even then, they may hear more than they are ready to handle from peers or siblings, and it’s important to know what to do when this happens.

Shockingly, children as young as Kindergarten are talking about the war in Israel and Gaza at school this week, and yet they don’t have the developmental skills to understand what this means for their lives unless we talk to them about it.

How to talk to children about war

    • Find out what they know. It can be helpful to check in with our children this week and ask, “Have you heard anything upsetting at school this week?” If they say yes, ask them to tell you more. If they say no, then gently let them know that you will check in with them occasionally because stories are often shared at school, and you want to make sure they have the facts.
    • Validate their feelings about it. It is scary to learn that horrible things happen in the world. Let your children know it’s natural to feel nervous or angry about what they heard. It’s okay to cry, whine more than usual, and be irritable throughout the day. They may have trouble paying attention and following directions at school or home. Nightmares and trouble sleeping are also signs that your child is distressed by the news of violence. Let them know this is a natural reaction for children, and you will be there for them no matter what.
    • Share how you feel, but don’t lean on a child for support. Children take their cues from us. They pick up on our facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language like tiny emotional detectives. They have this ability because children rely on adults for survival. A solid ability to recognize emotional and social cues helps them navigate the world and survive. You can say, “I am upset about what is happening too. It’s really horrible. But I want you to know the adults are doing everything they can to keep people safe.” They need to know we are responsible for solving these problems, not them. When children believe that adults will handle the world’s problems, it helps them feel safe, grounded, and contained.
    • Be a helper. Taking action can empower children in hopeless situations. For example, they could make a poster supporting peace to hang up at school, or your family could donate money to support those impacted by the violence. Doing something kind for others is one of the fastest ways to mitigate hopelessness. Now is the time to be the good we want to see in the world.
    • Admit you don’t have all the answers. Honesty and transparency are paramount in our relationship with children. As I mentioned earlier, children are way more attuned to us than we often give them credit for. They can sense when we are lying or being deceptive. So instead of making up falsehoods when they ask an unanswerable question, we can say, “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what will happen next. Life is sometimes uncertain and scary. But what I do know is that I will keep you updated with everything I find out, and I will always be here to talk to you about what is happening in the world.” Trust is the foundation of our relationship with children. Trust is the foundation of their well-being. Lying or hiding the truth from children breaks down their trust in you, and they need to trust you to feel safe.

I wish I had more to offer you to make things easier right now, but if you have this complicated conversation with your children, the good news is the next one will be easier. Start a ritual where you check in with your child every couple of weeks about what stories they are hearing at school, and it won’t seem unusual the next time you have this conversation.

If your child becomes stuck on worrisome thoughts about war and terrorism, visit my September 2023 newsletter, where I share strategies for helping children interrupt intrusive and repetitive thoughts.

The trauma that war inflicts is passed down from generation to generation epigenetically. As a human race, we must stop this. I pray for a peaceful resolution to all the wars across the globe, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by these tragic events.

Do you want to help children cope with trauma? 

At Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting, we translate the complexities of childhood trauma and neuroscience into language and storytelling that is easily digestible for caregivers, therapists, social workers, and other professionals. To schedule in-person or online speaking events and trauma-responsive workshops for your organization, please email us at Let’s learn how to prevent and heal trauma together.

Children’s Mental Health News

    • This week, the World Health Organization and the United Nations released guidelines for dismantling the biomedical model of mental health around the globe. This is the most significant shift in mental health that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. Please learn about the recommended guidelines from the WHO to see how this could improve the landscape of mental health care for stigmatized and marginalized groups of people. This is HUGE news that everyone should know about.
    • October is ADHD Awareness Month. I send my love and support to all the caregivers raising children with ADHD and trauma. The two often co-occur, and the symptoms overlap significantly. Raising children with one of these diagnoses, let alone both, can be overwhelming and challenging. My heart goes out to you, and this month, I recognize YOU and the effort you put into supporting the mental health of your children. Thank you for all that you do!
    • World Mental Health Day was on Tuesday, 10/10. I encourage you to do something to support the mental health of you and the children you love this month. The good news is it doesn’t have to be extravagant. The most valuable thing to our children is our undivided attention.  

Resource of the Month

Developmental Trauma Up Close, by Beacon House

I think there is still a lack of understanding of developmental trauma, so this month, I am sharing one of the best short documents I’ve found on developmental trauma. Use it to help yourself and others understand the impact of early separation, abuse, and/or neglect on children and their developing brains.

There are many additional resources tucked inside this resource, so save this link and return to it later. You will thank me! 🙂

Trauma Champion of the Month

Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D, is a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, the vice chair for veterans affairs in the psychiatry department, and the director of the traumatic stress studies division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She also leads the PTSD clinical research program at the neurochemistry and neuroendocrinology laboratory at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center. In 2020, she became director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at Mount Sinai. Dr. Yehuda’s groundbreaking research on intergenerational trauma demonstrates how traumatic events in previous generations can be passed down to offspring. Please watch this video with Dr. Yehuda for more information on this topic.

I am fascinated by Dr. Yehuda’s body of work and the innovative research she is doing to find new treatments for post-traumatic stress. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is the future of trauma treatment, and it’s a game-changer.

What’s New at BTTC?

In September, I started writing a sequel to my children’s book, A Grandfamily for Sullivan, and I’m excited to report that the manuscript is almost finished!

This second book will be one of many in a series of books that guide children through the traumatic experiences involved in kinship and foster care. My new book will be about Sullivan’s first supervised visit with Mama now that he is in kinship care (aka being raised by another family member). Sullivan and Grandma will struggle with some BIG emotions about visiting Mama, and along the way, some unexpected things happen that Sullivan learns how to cope with.

My real-life experience as a trauma therapist and CASA volunteer for children in foster, kinship, and adoptive families inspired the story. One of the biggest challenges for these families is visit time with birth/first parents. Caregivers frequently report that after time spent with their first parents, the children struggle to manage their behaviors and emotions, causing disruptions in their routines and relationships.

When I see a need, I try to find a solution (or at least a way to help). This new story has been swirling around in my mind since I published A Grandfamily for Sullivan four years ago, and I am ready to make it a reality!

My goal with my new book is to prepare children and caregivers for the emotions caused by visits with first parents and reduce some of the suffering that occurs for everyone involved.

I am planning to launch the book in January of 2024. If you would like to be a part of my launch team and receive a free copy of the book in exchange for reviewing and sharing it on social media, email me for more details. As a self-published author, I sincerely appreciate your support in getting the book to the children who need it most!

Over the last year, I’ve been co-creating a new course with on childhood trauma and toxic stressors. We are close to completing the written script, and our next step is the production and recording of the course. I will announce it in my newsletter when it is available for viewing. I highly recommend this new course, which includes the latest research and guidance on developmental trauma and attachment for foster and kinship families.

I am seeking new members to join the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Prevention Team affiliated with  Our team recently won the bid to create the PA chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. If you live in PA, reply to this email to get involved and prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania. We are a network of volunteers and child advocates working to create a trauma-informed, healing-centered state.

In Closing…

This newsletter aims to connect you with the information and support you need as you navigate trauma with children, clients, and yourselves. The truth is, at some point in life, we all experience trauma. The more we can bolster the emotional health of our children, the better off we will be as a society. Please reach out for help if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health. There are people who care about you, and I am one of them. To be clear, I do not offer 1-1 therapy, but I do provide training and consulting to organizations and businesses.  To watch my free educational webinars on childhood trauma, please visit my YouTube channel and click “like” and “subscribe”.

If you found this content helpful, please subscribe at and share it with a friend!

Quote of the Month “Let your heart break because it should. A broken heart is proof of your humanity right now.” – Marissa Renee Lee

With hope and grief,


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