As a local trauma therapist, I am often called upon to lend a helping ear after a traumatic event. Often children have been exposed to things none of us should ever see. Blood and injuries, screams of physical and emotional anguish. Many have nightmares and flashbacks; others, for example, don't ever again want to drive in a car.

While each situation should be dealt with on an individualized basis, it's important to discuss a few general tips for helping children cope with trauma:

What they are experiencing is normal and okay. Children often fear that they are weird or "going crazy" due to what they are experiencing. This additional level of distress can complicate attending to their inherent reactions to the incident.

Explain that you, and the entire family, are going through this together. Children may be concerned that they are alone in their thoughts and feelings. Knowing that you are there with them is exceptionally comforting. "Imo Anochi b'tzarah—I (G‑d) am with him in his troubles," the Psalmist tells us. G‑d's empathic caring, so to speak, is an essential trait for us to emulate.

Hear them out. Even if you saw it yourself. Even if they have told it to you already. Even if it is difficult for you to revisit and remember. (Just make sure that you stay calm and have someone that you can turn to as well.)

Assure them that they are safe and secure. One reason why people exposed to trauma keep repeating what they saw, is so that others will assure them that they are safe. ("Tell me, Daddy and Mommy, will I really be okay?") Don't promise them that nothing bad will ever happen in their lives, but also don't speak in detail about all the bad things that may happen. Simply tell them, "We are here for you, and always will be. Our family shares together in all important things that go on with our children. You will always be cared for."

Focus on the positive. Utilize some of the "teachable moments" that resulted from the trauma. Focus them on how miraculous it was that even more extensive damage and harm did not occur. Accentuate the incredible outpouring of kindness or helpfulness from strangers that they may have observed.

However, in the rush to focus on the positive, be careful not to ignore how children are feeling.

Following a serious bus crash a number of years ago, a school adamantly refused all offers of mental-health assistance, despite the pleas of parents and students. They insisted on "handling things internally." Mega-doses of discussions on faith, Divine Providence and positive thinking were dispensed. The results? Many children recovered quickly. The catch? Some of the remaining students actually reported feeling worse. This latter group couldn't adequately give vent to their traumatic feelings and weren't receiving any validation for what they were going through. On top of everything else, they now feared that they were lacking in faith and gratitude, since they weren't yet religiously "moved" by the moment.

Get them involved in hands-on projects. When a trauma occurs, children feel as if their world has turned upside down. There is no longer any feeling of control, power, or safety. This can be terrifying for anyone, especially children. It's the role of adults to help restore some sense of control, at least over the "inner world" which we all carry around.

Allow them to have some voice in choosing their projects. They can write stories and poems, or opt to paint and draw. They can focus on the event or express themselves in general terms. Encourage them to give charity, preferably to a charity or fund where they can directly understand that they are helping people. Have them recite prayers together with you for those still injured. A visit to a recovering friend or neighbor can achieve great results too.

"Getting back on the horse." A 17-year-old high-school student was once attacked by a group of armed youths as he walked through a playground. He was eventually saved by a courageous young man just as he fell unconscious. As I met with the student at the hospital a few days later, his rescuer unexpectedly arrived to make a visit. The injured teen said he was afraid to ever go near the playground again. The rescuer responded with the following story: "One summer I went on a program in the Midwest. We took the campers horseback riding, and one of them fell off his horse and got a bloody nose. He started crying, 'I'll never get on a horse again!' A cowhand came right up to the camper and admonished, 'Kid, in this business, people always fall off horses. The main thing is to get right back on!'"

Sometimes you can encourage a child to "get back on the horse" very quickly. For other children, it may entail a more step-by-step process. For example, for children in a car accident who no longer want to drive in a car it might mean sitting in an idling car one day, driving around the block the next day, eventually building up to regular driving. Know your child and listen to what he or she is saying.

Stick to routine. And be flexible. Which one is it? A little of both. Routine can provide a child with structure and comfort. But be prepared for the distinct possibility that compromise and flexibility may be needed, as well. Be prepared to add some extra time for them to fall asleep, or to read or play. If you feel that a young child needs to sleep with you for the night, or that you need to go into his or her room to facilitate sleeping, use expressions like, "Since it has been such a tough day, you can join us tonight." You want to avoid unwittingly fostering a situation where your child now "needs" to constantly sleep in your room.

Take care of yourself! Make sure that you have someone to vent to (spouse, sibling, neighbor, friend, rabbi/rebbetzin, therapist). Review some of the tips for children and find those that are applicable to you as well. Since you are already busy being Superman/Superwoman, try this "mission impossible" on for size: Find a way to fit something relaxing or enjoyable into your hectic schedule—if not daily, then at least on a weekly basis.

Remember: If you get overwhelmed, you won't be able to help yourself or your children!