Understanding and responding to children in crisis

Supporting children in distress can pose particular challenges for providers, whether delivering emergency medical services, responding to a disaster, or providing daily care. Children have unique physical differences, developmental needs, and distress reactions that providers may find difficult to address. They can trigger responders’ own emotions, interfering with their information processing and decision-making abilities. Providers have reported that their own emotional responses, their lack of experience working with kids, and the emotions of family members can negatively impact the quality of care that they are able to provide when working with children in distress.

The resource kit comes in two versions. One for EMS and other emergency medical providers. The other is designed for non-medical providers, educators and caregivers that support children during disasters, emergencies, or individual crises.

The kit consists of two resources:


Engage-Calm-Distract provides foundational material on pediatric distress and information on applying developmentally appropriate strategies and activities for engaging, calming, and distracting children and their caregivers.

Pediatric Emotional Distress Reference System (PEDRS)

PEDRS is now available as a mobile application. Go to the Pediatric Emotional Distress Response System (PEDRS) Mobile App site for information on downloading and using the new app.

The Pediatric Emotional Distress Reference System (PEDRS) serves as a quick reference guide to be employed in the field. The guide identifies common distress reactions by developmental level with age-appropriate calming and distraction activities. The PEDRS is cross-referenced with the BroselowTM and HandTevyTM  weights and colors to help medical providers determine approximate a child’s age when that information is not available This electronic version is set up to be printed on two sides so that each card provides common distress reactions and calming and distraction activities for each developmental level.