Information and Resources for Families

Urban Youth Trauma Center

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Information and Resources for Families

Information and Resources for Families

As part of the services offered to children and adolescents, the Urban Youth Trauma Center and Pediatric Stress and Anxiety Disorders Clinic teams work with caregivers and family members to learn new ways to support their child’s needs and implement positive coping strategies that can reduce traumatic stress reactions and/or anxiety symptoms. Click on the tabs below to learn more about services, treatment options, and resources that you can use to support your child, teen, and family. 

Any time a child or adolescent is experiencing difficulties in social, emotional, or behavioral functioning, it is likely to impact the entire family system. In addition, as an individual works toward meeting treatment goals, the support of parents, family members, or other support figures can be crucial. Having supportive adults participate in a child’s treatment can help them to feel loved, protected, or understood during challenging mental health crisis that may cause them to question their safety and who they can trust.

There are several evidence-based interventions that can be used to support children and families who may be dealing with trauma exposure, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, etc. Examples include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help children and teens identify unhealthy or unhelpful thinking and behavioral patterns, while also working to identify and implement positive coping and relaxation strategies. In order to help children and teens make progress toward treatment goals, the clinician may occasionally provide “homework” or at-home exercises for the family to practice skills outside of the session. 

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for children and adolescents impacted by trauma. The goal of this intervention is to support families in addressing the emotional and behavioral difficulties associated with single, multiple, and complex trauma experiences.

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) is a behavioral therapy technique that helps individuals to work through situations that cause their obsessions and subsequent distress, while also preventing compulsive responses.

Click here to access the Child Mind Institute’s Family Resource Center 
Click here to access the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Complex Trauma Facts for Caregivers 
Click here to learn more about the use of therapy to improve children’s mental health 
Click here to learn more about diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders

As the number of mental health needs for children, teens, and adults continues to increase, many organizations are reporting an increasingly long wait list for providing services. If families are on a wait list for mental health services and not in need of immediate care, there are strategies that can be used at home or school while waiting to begin treatment or therapy. 

Examples of things that parents and other adults can do include:
1. Increase open communication between yourself and the child or teen so that they are comfortable sharing their feelings and talking with you about difficult thoughts or emotions that they may be experiencing.
2. Makes sure that as the adult you are modeling positive self-care and appropriate coping strategies.
3. Make sure that the child or teen has a supportive circle around them and multiple individuals that they can go to for help.
4. Educate yourself on the signs that a child or teen is experiencing significant distress and when it may be necessary to consult an emergency medical/mental health professional due to accelerated risks of harm.

IMPORTANT: Signs that parents or caregivers should watch for if they suspect a child or teen is at risk include use of self-harm behaviors, statements or thoughts regarding plans or intent of self-harm, and feelings of hopelessness. If you suspect that an individual is experiencing a crisis, in imminent danger, or at-risk of harm to themselves or others, you should call 911 immediately or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Click here to access a trauma checklist that can help parents and caregivers determine when to seek professional help

Some children and teens may benefit from the addition of evidence-based management of medication to their treatment. The integration of psychopharmacological medications can sometimes help with the reduction of debilitating symptoms as well. A psychiatric evaluation is a key part of treatment for PSADC families to determine if medication will be a beneficial part of treatment. If psychopharmacological treatment is recommended, ongoing medication management is advised to monitor symptom progress, treatment adherence, and any potential side effects.

The PSADC team acknowledges the hesitancy that many families may experience regarding the recommendation to add medication to their child’s treatment plan. Likewise, we are aware that there can be a certain stigma attached with medication use or concerns regarding the addition of medication due to past negative experiences that an individual may have had with medical providers or potential side effects. By including ongoing medication management in our treatment plans, and scheduling regular appointments with our psychiatrist, we work hard to ensure that all questions and concerns are addressed and that we are implementing the best method of treatment for our patients and their families.

There are several factors that are considered when deciding to prescribe a specific medication for a child or teen such as the age of the child, diagnosis determined following the comprehensive intake assessment, effectiveness of the medication and potential side effects, etc. When working with families, the PSADC team wants to ensure that families have a thorough understanding of why medication has been recommended and how children or teens can include medication management in their treatment plan.

IMPORTANT: When meeting with a psychiatrist, important information for families to gather includes (1) Name of the medication and purpose, (2) Information regarding dosage and time of day medicine is taken, (3) Potential side effects of the medication, (4) Food, drinks, other medications, or activities that should be avoided while taking the medicine, and (5) Documentation needed if the child/teen will be taking medicine while at school.

Click here to access the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Parents’ Medication Guide

Exposure to community violence and the loss of friends or family members to gun violence may cause children to feel that they cannot rely on anyone for safety or support. Likewise, when constantly faced with community violence and the possibility that a loved one will be injured or killed, children and teens look to adults for reassurance that they are safe and that everything will be ok. The presence of positive and stable relationships during times such as this is extremely important, and the care and support provided by caregivers, peers, or mentors can help with positive development and resiliency. It is important that caregivers and other adults' model positive coping strategies and give those affected by violence extra attention to address any concerns, fears, or questions that they may have. 

The use of safety mapping and talking to children about the people, places, or situations that cause them to feel unsafe, or puts them at increased risk for danger, is important. Similarly, establishing a safety plan and providing developmentally appropriate information about what to do during a potential threat can help address the worries and the concern that a child or teen may have.

The death of a friend, family member, student, or loved one to gun violence can result in long-term feelings of grief and loss, and cause individuals to experience what is referred to as traumatic grief. When talking with children and teens, it is important to normalize the stages of grief that they may experience and may sure to explain what has happened using age-appropriate language that they can understand. It is also important to emphasize that every individual responds to a loss differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief reactions to watch for include concern about separating from a caregiver, regressive behaviors such as bedwetting, asking a lot of questions about death, becoming withdrawn or isolated from others, difficulty completing schoolwork, and increases in defiant, aggressive, or risk-taking behavior.

Click here to access the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s factsheet about community violence exposure 
Click here to access a fact sheet for parents and caregivers on childhood traumatic grief 
Click here to access information about the State of Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Program 

Parents and caregivers have a great impact on their children’s success in school. When parent and educator partnerships are formed to support children and teens, it can have tremendous influence on the success of the entire school community. There are a lot of benefits to engaging in your child’s school activities and getting involved in what your child or teen is doing at school. There is evidence to suggest that children perform better in school, achieve more, have more positive social-emotional development, and have better school attendance when parents are actively involved in their child’s education. 

A few things that can help build family-school partnerships and support children's functioning within school settings are: (1) Attend parent-teacher conferences, (2)  Participate in parent organization meetings, (3) Volunteer at your child’s school when possible, (4) Help your child with their schoolwork, (5) Encourage positive attitudes about school, and (5) Identify a trusted adult at school that you and your child can check-in with regularly.

Did you know that mental health challenges, ongoing stressors, and trauma can impact school performance? All of the these things can contribute to difficulty adapting to school environment, poor academic performance, poor attendance, low levels of engagement in class, trouble completing work, and difficulty with attention and concentration. 

Individualized Education Programs or 504 Plans are used within school-based settings to ensure that the necessary procedures are in place to accommodate students needing additional academic support or services to address mental health needs. Areas that should be addressed by caregivers and school staff to support students with anxiety and other mental health challenges can include providing a calm down area or quiet space for times when the student may feel overwhelmed, allowing additional time for completing assignments or transitioning to class/activities and having a designated person the student can check in with when feeling overwhelmed.   

Click here to access the National Association of School Psychologists mental health & behavioral health resources 
Click here to access the Child Mind Institute’s information about Individual Education Programs (IEPs) 
Click here to access the Child Mind Institute’s information about Section 504 Plans 


UYTC Parent Video RecordingsUYTC Parent Video Recordings

Click here  to view our archive of community conversations, parent workshops, and more!  


More about the Pediatric Stress and Anxiety Disorders Clinic and Crisis Services
The Pediatric Stress and Anxiety Disorders Clinic (PSADC) is located within the Institute of Juvenile Research at 1747 West Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60608. Our team works with children, youth, and families to complete comprehensive evaluations and individualized treatment programming which may include cognitive behavioral therapy, parent guidance, family therapy, coordination with schools for school-based interventions, and medication management. 

To make an appointment and speak with one of our intake coordinators call 312-996-7723. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call 1-800-273-8255
National Crisis Text Line text HOME to 741741
National Domestic Violence Hotline call 1-800-799-7233
National Sexual Assault Hotline call 1-800-656-4673
Click here to access information about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 

PLEASE NOTE: The inclusion of external resources on this page does not imply the Urban Youth Trauma Center’s endorsement of information, treatments, or services. This information is provided only to assist families with accessing additional information regarding strategies for supporting children and teens who may need mental health support.