Caregiver traumatic stress (1111)

Key points below

What is Caregiver Traumatic Stress?

A caregiver is anyone who takes care of a child. It can be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or foster parent. Caregiver traumatic stress can happen when something very scary happens to their child. Caregivers react to stress in many ways. Traumatic stress symptoms may make it harder to care for a child. It may cause problems in daily life. Lots of stress can also make caregiver health problems worse.

What causes it?Caregiver Trauma 1

Caregivers can have traumatic stress if they see their child go through a scary or life-threatening event, such as an accident, violence, or illness. Caregivers also can have stress if they hear that one of these events happened to their child. Traumatic stress is something that can happen to anyone.

What are the symptoms?

It is normal for caregivers to have lots of feelings after children have trauma. It can be very stressful to think about what their child is going through. Some fears and feelings of distress stay for a long time. They can include:

As the weeks pass, the feelings of sadness, anxiety, or crabbiness get worse.

Can I talk with my child about what happened?Caregiver Trauma 2

Talking can help children cope. It helps children feel supported when they know someone is there to listen. When they begin to talk, let them know it is okay to have lots of thoughts and feelings about what happened. Stay positive with your child and focus on the support people in their lives who can help them get through this difficult time.

Here are some ways to help cope with a traumatic event involving a child.




What should I do if I notice traumatic stress symptoms?

It is important to get help if you have any of these symptoms. You may want to start by talking with your doctor. A mental health therapist can also be helpful if you have traumatic stress. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work can help find a therapist for you. A social worker, clergy, or pastor can also be helpful. Getting help soon may stop long lasting problems with work, friends, or family life.

Is this different than Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Some caregivers with traumatic stress may go on to develop PTSD. PTSD occurs when the symptoms last more than one month. The caregiver re-lives the event in their mind with intense fear. Caregivers may have problems with memory. Or, they may be very upset and anxious. A mental health therapist is needed to treat PTSD.


Call your doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any questions or concerns or if you:

  • Have behavior problems or symptoms listed above.
  • Have special health care needs that were not covered by this information.
  • If you ever have concerns about safety, call 911