Helping a Child

Helping a child who has been impacted by crime
How you may react
How your child react
What can I do to help my child?
Where to go for help

Helping a child who has been impacted by crime

It is very difficult as a parent to see your child suffer. Unfortunately, children are affected by many of the same crimes as adults. Burglary, robbery, assault, harassment, and emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse are some of the more common crimes that impact children.

Obviously there is a wide variation in how children react to crime depending on the type of crime, where the crime happens, how much the children see and know of what happened, how others around the children react, and what happens in the immediate aftermath of the crime. In general, being a direct victim of crime has a greater impact than being a witness to crime.

How you may react

Some common reactions from parents when their child has been a victim or witness are:

  • I wish this never happened.
  • I feel so guilty that I could not protect my child.
  • I feel shocked, I can’t believe this has happened.
  • I’m so angry with those people – I’m angry with everybody!
  • Why couldn’t someone have done something?
  • Why couldn’t I do anything?
  • Why didn’t somebody see what was happening?
  • What can I do to help my child?

How your child may react

Your child may:

  • Complain of a tummy aches and/or headaches
  • Have bad dreams
  • Start behaving in ways he or she did when they were younger
  • Show behavioural or personality changes, at home or at school
  • Be afraid something like this will happen again
  • Feel guilty for not preventing the incident from occurring
  • Worry about you or family members when you are not together
  • Be reluctant to venture out, preferring to stay at home
  • Feel a great sense of helplessness and vulnerability

Always remember, every child is different. Your child will react in his/her own unique way.


What can I do to help my child?

Children will take their cue from you. Although it is good to tell them that you are affected (if you are) it is better not to talk to them in detail about your own fears, anger, or anxiety. Children need reassurance that this is something that you can cope with. It is important for you to talk about your own reactions in private to a supportive adult, so that your children are not further upset by seeing how upset you are.

What you can do to support your child

  • Understand what it’s like for them
  • Listen to them
  • Talk to them
  • Ask them how they are
  • Reassure them that they are okay
  • Answer their questions
  • Hug and cuddle them when they need it
  • Tell them things will get better, in time
  • Keep everything the same as much as possible, routine is good, set times for homework, chores and bedtime
  • Respond to their needs – leaving the light on, walking them to school, whatever they need to feel secure
  • Be consistent
  • Look for opportunities to have fun

It is important to help them talk openly about what happened. Asking them and talking to them about how they were affected can reassure them that whatever they are feeling now is okay, and that most people feel affected by such incidents. Some children don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine too. It’s important that you give them the opportunity to talk, and not push them if they don’t. You will be the best judge of this.

It is advisable to let your child’s teacher/school know what is going on and to avail of any support offered by the school, such as counselling.

Where to go for help

  • Teacher
  • Your GP
  • Childline (Freephone 1 800 666 666)
  • Parentline (LoCall 1 890 927277 or 01 873 3500)
  • School Counsellor
  • Psychologist
  • Social Worker