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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children: Care Instructions

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children: Overview

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition. It can result from seeing or being in a dangerous or traumatic event. The event may be a natural disaster, a serious car crash, or a physical assault. In children, PTSD may also result from abuse, violence in the home, a dog bite, and more. The trauma may be a one-time event or repeated.

Children with PTSD react in different ways. Some may have nightmares or flashbacks. They may feel afraid and have trouble sleeping. Some also have trouble remembering the event. Others try to avoid thinking about it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Find a counsellor for your child. A counsellor can help your child learn skills to cope with the trauma they've gone through. Try to find a counsellor who has experience helping kids who've had trauma. Make sure your child goes to all counselling sessions and follow-up appointments.
  • If the doctor prescribed medicines, make sure your child takes them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with any medicines.
  • Know what things can lead to your child's traumatic memories. It could be something you say or do, or something they see on TV. When you know what these things are, you and your child can try to avoid them.
  • Focus on creating a safe, stable home.
    • Make days calm and predictable.
    • Be a consistent presence.
    • Give affection. Show that you care with your actions and your words.
    • Manage your own reactions to stress.
    • If you can, try to reduce the chances of your child being exposed to a similar traumatic event again.
  • Work with your child's teachers and school counsellor to help create support for your child at school.
  • Encourage your child to be active for at least an hour each day. Your child may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.
  • Help your child learn relaxation exercises. Your child's counsellor can help. Free online videos and podcasts are also good resources. Examples of relaxation exercises include:
    • Deep breathing. This means taking slow, deep breaths.
    • Guided imagery. Your child imagines themself in a certain setting that helps them feel calm and relaxed.
    • Progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group to reduce anxiety and muscle tension.
  • Help your child get enough sleep.
    • Set up a bedtime routine to help your child get ready for bed.
    • Have your child go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child feels they cannot stop from hurting themself or someone else.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.

  • Call or text Canada's suicide and crisis hotline at 988.
  • Call Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (4 p.m. to midnight ET).
  • Kids or teens can call Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.
  • Go to the Talk Suicide Canada website at or the Kids Help Phone website at for more information.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child's PTSD symptoms are getting worse.
  • Your child has new or worse symptoms of anxiety or depression.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter P562 in the search box to learn more about "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.