Psychologist London

Welcome Guest


Pandemic, climate change, war… how to protect ourselves and our children from systemic trauma

Pandemic, climate change, war… how to protect ourselves and our children from systemic trauma

We might not be able to fully protect our children from the world we have created for them, but we can limit some of the damage.”


Pandemic, climate change, war… it seems we have collectively opened Pandora’s box! As a mental health professional, the worst consequence of it all is that this is now the world our children must now live in – both our inner ones, as well as those we are raising.

The world we have created is traumatising us and our children. For our inner child, these triggers activate and augment our original pain and fear from past hardships that we or our parents went through and passed on to us, along with the memory that we are unsafe, which in turn retraumatises us again. With regards to our children, we have surrounded them with an overwhelming threat and with their limited resources, it is impossible for them to know how to deal with it. In turn, this can dramatically affect how they respond to events, regulate themselves, handle stress, interact with others, and how much empathy and compassion they develop. In other words, trauma has the power to define who they grow up to become, how they see others and their place in the world.

But here is some really good news. Children are not traumatised because horrible things happen to them and they get hurt. Children are traumatised when they are alone with their hurt, because of what happens inside them as a result of what is happening to them. They are experiencing big emotions and they do not have the skills to process them or to know what to do with them. So, they disconnect. They disconnect from themselves because it eventually becomes too painful to be themselves and then this becomes the framework on which they base their lives.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We might not be able to fully protect our children from the world we have created for them, but we can limit some of the damage. We can hold them – both physically and metaphorically. Here’s how:

  • We can be there for them when they ask hard questions and use age-appropriate language to tell them the truth without scaring them. It is important to stick with the facts at this stage, and use real words but simple, for example, “people get sick”, “temperature and weather changes”, “angry people”, “scared people”, “fighting”, “bombs”. Then we can check in with them to see how they are feeling about what we just told them. We should validate their feelings – never dismiss them, minimise them or make them seem insignificant! Finally, we remind them we are right there for them.


  • When answering our children’s questions, we should be mindful of the messages we convey, because the messages we learn as children are powerful and affect our development and course in life. Sticking to the facts and avoiding hate talk, blaming and other toxic messages can help break the cycle of fear, hate and prejudice. This way we can protect our children from becoming toxic individuals and in turn toxic parents of the future generation. Our messages can create the opportunity in them to rise above it all and do better than us for themselves, as well as for the world.


  • My favourite way to deal with fear, which is also backed up by research, is to use a healthy dose of humour. Humour doesn’t dismiss our fear instead it equips us with a different skill to confront it and laugh it away. Our laughter makes us feel courageous. From this new perspective, we are stronger and can master our fears. Who can forget this video from the Guardian of this dad who taught his daughter to cope with bombs in Syria through laughter?


  • If we don’t know the answers, then we can tell our children we will find out and let them know, or we can look into it together. We can encourage them to keep talking because more questions or emotions might come up, and we must reassure them that we are there for them through all of it.


  • If they don’t ask any questions, but we notice they are affected by something they have heard, we should acknowledge it. We can tell them they seem preoccupied or worried about something and ask if they want to talk about it. Alternatively, we can encourage them to draw how they feel. We should always tell them that when bad things are happening it is never their fault, they did nothing wrong, that they are safe, and that we love them.


  • If we are sad, angry, stressed or worried, it is okay to admit it and explain to them why and what made us feel this way. It is important to tell them that we can feel this way and still be strong at the same time, that we can take good care of them.


  • All of these approaches can be more effective if we maintain the connection with our children, which can be achieved by meeting them where they are. We can sit down on the floor to make eye contact, go under the duvet with them, into their tent or pillow fort. We can be physically close to them; we can hug them and speak softly


  • No matter what though, we should always always, always make them feel they are safe, because they really are – even if there is an imminent threat, the next second hasn’t come yet, so they are still safe. The dystopia we so fear can be averted by protecting our children and their geniuses, by keeping them in the present and making them feel safe.


Both our inner child, as well as those we are raising, need to be held this way. We ought to be patient and compassionate with ourselves and with our children. We need to take time to create a safe space for them so we can both learn how to stay connected with ourselves and from this base, we can learn to cope with adversity and eventually develop resilience.


NB: This article was also published in Greek in the Athens Voice here


Dr Patapia Tzotzoli

Dr Patapia Tzotzoli founded My Psychology Clinic where she gained her reputation working as Clinical Psychologist with clients on one to one basis in London and worldwide via online therapy. She specialises in adult mental health and couples therapy. Studied at the universities of East London, Oxford and Cambridge and trained at the Institute of Psychiatry where she worked across world-renowned NHS Trusts.

Dr Patapia Tzotzoli
Medical LiveWire Award Winner

Click here to book an online session or in person with Dr Patapia Tzotzoli at My Psychology Clinic.