Practical information
Supporting children and young people

Supporting children and young people

If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call emergency services on 111.

  • If you’re in danger but it’s not safe to talk, call 111, stay silent, and follow the instructions to connect to police.
  • If you’re calling from a mobile, stay silent and listen for the 'press 55' prompt for help.
  • If you’re calling from a landline, stay silent and follow the operator’s instructions to press any button for help.
  • If you have hearing or speech difficulties, register for the New Zealand Police 111 TXT service so you can text Police, Fire or Ambulance in an emergency.
  • If English is not your primary language, Victim Support can use Connecting Now to connect with an interpreter over the phone. Call us on 0800 842 846 and let us know which language you need. Victim Support can also try and match you with a Support Worker who speaks your primary language.
  • To make a quick exit from this page click on the Quick Exit button on the top right. Go to the Hide my visit page to learn how to hide evidence of your visit to this site.

You may qualify for financial assistance under the Victim Assistance Scheme (VAS) which helps victims of serious crime by contributing to costs related to the crime, the justice process and recovery.

For more information you can contact your Support Worker, call us directly on 0800 842 846 or visit our Financial assistance page.

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The justice system can be complicated and unfamiliar but knowing what to expect can help. We can help you understand and engage with the justice system, answer any questions you have, and be there for you if you want someone to listen.

We can support you with:

  • Rights and information. We’ll help you understand your rights, provide information, and support you to make informed choices.
  • Justice system. We’ll explain the justice system and help you navigate each step, including supporting you at key moments during court, parole hearings, coronial inquests and family group or restorative justice conferences. We can help you prepare a Victim Impact Statement or apply to be on the Victim Notification Register.
  • Linking with other agencies and support. We’ll help you liaise with police, courts and other government agencies.

You can call us or visit our How we can help page to find out more about who we are, how we can help you and how to access our support.

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If you or others have been injured, see a doctor, go to a hospital emergency department or call an ambulance on 111 regardless of whether you decide to report the incident or not.

A professional medical assessment can help your recovery and ensure physical safety.

Depending on the incident, consider having the doctor prepare a medical report that can be shared with police, if you are comfortable doing that.

After what’s happened the media may want to get comments or interview you, your family, whānau, close friends or any witnesses.  Media can sometimes feel demanding and intrusive during stressful times but it’s your decision if you want to speak to them or not and what you feel comfortable sharing.

These situations can seem very unjust and unfair and can cause both grief and trauma. There is an overlap between these two reactions but there are also some differences. Grief is a normal reaction to loss, featuring a range of responses that stem from sadness. Trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal event, featuring a range of responses that stem from fear and anxiety.

To help them cope through what’s happened, provide a safe and supportive space for children and young people to process their thoughts in their own way and reassure them it’s not their fault.

Family, whānau and friends can suddenly be called on to help someone who is a victim, witness, or has been bereaved by a crime or a traumatic event. Your caring support can help the person feel more able to cope and begin to recover. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do or say and you may be feeling stressed by their situation as well. Being there to listen and taking care of yourself along the way helps.

Any sudden death that is unexpected, violent or suspicious will be investigated by a coroner. Coroners are responsible for determining the details surrounding the death, including how, where, when, and why it occurred. This information is important in listing the cause of death on the official death certificate. It is a complex process that can vary according to the different circumstances of the death but is handled carefully and respectfully by those involved.

For many, a ceremonial blessing of the site where a person has died is an essential part of processing the loss. It acknowledges of the spiritual impact of the tragedy and protects and guides the spirit of the deceased. It respects and honours the dignity of the deceased person, their family, whānau, and community.

For Māori, it can include lifting of the tapu on the site and karakia. Other cultural and faith groups have their own unique blessing ceremonies. Some family or whānau members may choose to visit the scene and be part of a blessing ceremony and others may not. They may prefer to hold a private blessing or open it to whomever would like to come, including from the community.

If you are an immediate family or whānau member wishing to organise a blessing for the site, you could contact your kaumātua, local marae, church or faith centre, the police officer who has been working with you, a Police Iwi Liaison Officer, or speak to a Support Worker.

If you don't personally know the family or whānau but witnessed or discovered the incident, you can speak to a Support Worker if you'd like to attend a blessing, provided it is open to the public and the family or whānau are comfortable with that.

Advice and information is available from Aotearoa New Zealand embassies in the country concerned and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) can help. They can liaise with New Zealand Police and the country the person died in about the local investigation and justice process.

MFAT can let you know about:

Official processes required in the country the person died in.

Available local burial or cremation options and any requirements that must be met.

Contact details for funeral directors in that country who could manage the funeral or tangihanga.

How you can bring back the person’s body or ashes (repatriation) to Aotearoa New Zealand.

If a person’s body or their ashes are being returned to Aotearoa New Zealand

The immediate family or whānau can ask a funeral director in Aotearoa New Zealand about the options they have for arranging for their loved one's body or ashes to be repatriated (brought back to New Zealand).

Urgent travel

If you live overseas but the death of someone close to you has happened in Aotearoa New Zealand, the bereaved family or whānau are able to access some assistance here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Manaaki Tāngata | Victim Support
Call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected to a Support Worker for assistance.

The Ministry of Justice's Victims Information Centre
Find information, advice and support. Contact them here.

Support through the criminal justice system
Look in this directory to find a New Zealand lawyer

Some financial support
ACC may accept a claim for accidental death which would provide financial support to cover some costs when the death of a New Zealander has been confirmed by police as murder or manslaughter. If you're overseas contact ACC on +64 7 848 7400

Your chosen funeral director can do as little or as much as you want them to do. Talk with your funeral director about what you would like, including any cultural or religious rituals you want honoured. Ask them about costs and payment options, so you can make choices that are manageable.

A funeral director helps bereaved families and whānau in several ways, including:

collecting the person’s body from the mortuary and caring for them at their funeral home until burial or cremation

providing information about necessary legal requirements after a death

registering the death and helping families get a copy of the death certificate

explaining how you can bring back the person’s body or ashes (repatriation) to Aotearoa New Zealand.

preparing the body for viewing if the family wishes this and it is possible

fulfilling the family’s choices for the funeral, tangihanga (tangi), or memorial event

checking if the person’s legal will requested certain funeral arrangements

organising cremation or burial procedures that meet necessary requirements

helping families apply for financial assistance, if needed

If you and your immediate family or whānau prefer to organise a burial or cremation without a funeral director

The Victim Notification Register provides victims of serious crimes with notifications about what's happening to the person that offended against them as they move through the justice system. This includes their Parole Board hearings, temporary prison releases, home detention, hospital detention or prison release date.

To receive notifications and be kept informed, victims must apply to be listed on the Victim Notification Register. Victims are also able to nominate someone else as a representative to receive the notification on their behalf.

A victim can apply to be on the register at any stage after an offender has been charged.

The Police determine a victim’s eligibility to be on the Register and the Department of Corrections runs the confidential Register service.

A Victim Impact Statement is your opportunity to tell the court and the offender how the crime has personally affected you as a victim - emotionally, physically, financially, socially and psychologically, and in your daily life. This is a different statement to the one you gave to police after the crime occurred.

A Victim Impact Statement helps the court understand your views about the offending and the information you provide, if you decide to make a statement, will be considered by the judge when the offender is being sentenced.

The tragic death of someone close to us is always distressing, and when it happens unexpectedly or in some cases violently, it can be even more challenging. We might hear the news from others or have witnessed the person’s death ourselves, and the shock can leave us unsure about what we need to do.

A lot needs to happen within the first few days after a death and many people and agencies become involved. They understand how distressing this time is will support you through it respectfully and with care.

Support is here for you when things get tough. You don't have to face it alone. Reach out to these confidential and non-judgmental services to discuss your situation and get the help you need.

Family Services Directory

Directory of nationwide support providers who can help families and whānau cope with common issues and problems.

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

Nationwide directory of GPs, mental health counsellors and services, and information for anyone in need of mental health support.


Help, advice and information for people (including children and young people) who have had something harmful happen to them online or in a virtual place or space.

New Zealand Relay

Helps people who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech-impaired, and deafblind to connect with support services over the phone.

Parent Help

Parenting helpline and counselling for parents, caregivers and whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Rainbow Youth

Support, information, resources & advocacy for Aotearoa's queer, gender diverse, takatāpui and intersex youth.

Skylight Trust

Counselling, resources, and a specialist support library for children, young people, and adults who are experiencing any kind of grief, loss or trauma, including after a homicide or suicide.

Suicide Crisis Helpline

Free 24/7 crisis helpline for those who are thinking about suicide or if someone you know is thinking about suicide.

The Grief Centre

Services to support children, youth, adults, families, or whānau experiencing any form of significant loss.

What's Up

Free nationwide counselling helpline and webchat service for children, tamariki and teenagers,rangitahi who need some support to help them to deal with what’s on their mind.


Free 24/7 helpline, and face-to-face mental health counselling services for young people.


When children and young people of any age or stage face tough life situations they need the loving care and support of those around them, especially when they have been affected by crime, loss and other traumatic events. Knowing they have someone to rely on can make their journey a little less daunting.

It's common to feel uncertain about how to navigate these situations yourself. Find information and resources tailored to specific situations on our Crime and traumatic events pages, as well as additional support on our Coping with grief and trauma page. This information might help you to learn more about the incident that has occurred or provide help for yourself as a support person.

Although we are unable to support under 16s, remember you are not alone and there are people who can support you as well. Contact a support professional like a doctor or counsellor, a trusted elder or community leader, close family or whānau, or a Support Worker. If they are old enough, young people may want to do this themselves and it's ok to support them to do that.


Understand their reactions

Young people who have been affected by a crime or traumatic event will react in their own individual way and a lot will depend on their age and stage.  You might see them doing or saying things that are different from normal or out of character. These are completely normal reactions to a traumatic situation and you'll find their reactions gradually lessen over time.

Be accepting of their reactions and know that it will take time for them to work through what’s happened, especially if they have experienced or witnessed a violent crime or lost someone they care about.

Infants and children may exhibit a variety of physical, emotional, and behavioral signs when under stress.

These signs may include:

  • sleep problems and restlessness
  • changes in eating and toilet habits
  • irritability, clinginess
  • difficulty coping with change and transition
  • changes in relationships
  • preoccupation with the traumatic event
  • being quiet or withdrawn  
  • exaggeration of small ailments or reactions to small crises

Young people and teens may not have the words to express their feelings. When faced with difficult situations, they often cope by keeping themselves distracted.

They may show a range of these physical, emotional and behaviour signs:

  • sleeplessness, wanting to sleep all the time
  • withdrawal from family or whānau, boredom and restlessness
  • excessive concern for others, guilt, anxiety, insecurity, irritability, and detachment from life
  • difficulty coping with responsibilities, preoccupation with the traumatic event
  • exaggerated emotional reactions and angry behaviour

The emotional reaction of children and young people will depend on the nature and context of the situation, how they see it, and their personality and life experience.

If you notice any troubling or worrying signs, it is important to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional.


If they discover or witness a crime or traumatic event

If the discoverer or witness is a child or young person, they will need ongoing support and extra understanding from caring adults around them. Depending on the severity they may also need help from professionals with trauma support skills regardless if they may or may not have known the person who died.

During an investigation, a police detective may need to ask them what they witnessed. Police have strict procedures for interviewing children so this would only be done with sensitivity and professional support.

This is an overwhelming experience, and it could be a very troubling time for  them. They’re likely to have some physical reactions, like feeling sick, headaches, stomach aches, being shaky, bed wetting, or less appetite. Difficult memories could keep coming back. They might find it hard to sleep and could have bad dreams or flashbacks about what they saw.

In a quiet place, gently ask them what happened to them. They may not remember much at first and it may come back to them later. They might not want to talk because they’re in shock or very frightened. Just be with them quietly instead. Let them know you know it was scary for them, and they’re safe now.


How to help

After a crime or traumatic event, it’s important to remember that children and young people might not know how, or even want to talk about it. Just showing you believe them, making them feel safe, and expressing your support and willingness to stand by them can be a guiding light during a tough time.

There are some helpful strategies you can use to support their recovery.

You might consider:

  • sharing age appropriate details about the event but avoiding unnecessary specifics.
  • for the very young, providing comfort items, such as a cuddly toy or a special blanket and keeping their environment as calm as possible.
  • creating an environment where they can express their feelings.
  • reassuring them it's not their fault.
  • listening to their worries and concerns.
  • letting them communicate, but also allowing quiet time.
  • keeping a stable daily routine to provide security and minimising change.
  • reassuring them about the future and expressing love and care regardless of their reactions.
  • offering them hope.
  • encouraging them to pursue social and recreational activities, play, explore, and find moments of joy, even if the adults around them may not share the same enthusiasm.
  • taking all their concerns, complaints, and questions seriously, as they might be attempting to convey something significant which they may not have words for yet.

Encouraging children and young people to stay connected with trusted family, whānau, and friends, and helping them to find positive activities and interests to focus on can support their recovery.

While they may face some challenges, most importantly, let them know that you love and support them and are ready to listen.


After a bereavement

Bereaved children and young people will need ongoing support and reassurance from those around them. It is not unusual for trauma or grief reactions to resurface later. As children and young people grow and develop, they will respond to their loss in news ways. They may ask new questions sometimes, even years after the death.

Reassure children and young people that it’s normal to have strong thoughts and feelings after someone dies. Talk about some helpful ways to manage them, such as taking some slow, deep breaths if they’re getting anxious, crying if they want to, or talking to someone they trust when they’re feeling sad.

Telling children and young people about a death

It can be incredibly hard to tell such sad news to a child or young person. Being honest with them early on protects them from later hearing the news insensitively or incorrectly from others. What they can understand and the questions they’ll ask will depend on their age and stage of development.



Supporting a young witness at court

Child or young witnesses go to court as a witness if the judge or jury needs to hear from them about what happened. They are given special support and protection and there are legal responsibilities to protect their privacy.

Coming face-to-face with the defendant in a courtroom can be a very distressing experience for children and complicated court proceedings can make them feel stressed and anxious. Quite often they may be questioned like adults, leaving them uncertain about what to say and how to say it in this unfamiliar environment.

Court Education for Young Witnesses is a programme offered by Court Victim Advisors to young witnesses in adult courts. It also includes the young person’s caregiver and support people.

The goal is to familarise the court to the young witness and explain court proceedings, seating arrangements, and roles to them.  You can even arrange a visit to the courtroom to get familiarised with it in advance.

If you request this program from your Court Victim Advisor, they will contact you approximately 3 weeks before the court case.  

You can contact the Victim Information Line on 0800 650 654 or make an online enquiry to find out more.


Online safety

Young people are at greater risk of experiencing online harassment and bullying. They can also be a victim of online hate crime, cybercrimes such as online scams, sextortion, or have intimate photos of them shared online.

It’s important children and young people have an understanding of the risks of posting private and personal information online. Despite the fact that they deserve to feel safe in online environments, there are some risks associated.


There are some simple steps you can take to ensure online safety for the children and young people you are supporting.

Open Communication

  • Talk regularly with your children about online safety, addressing risks like cyberbullying, grooming, and online predators. Teach them how to protect themselves and what to do if they encounter something unsettling.

Reporting Concerns

  • Encourage your children to report any worries to a trusted adult, whether a parent, teacher, or another trusted person.
  • Create an environment where your children feel comfortable sharing their online concerns with you. Let them know you're available to listen and assist and to let you know about any online behaviours or information they find troubling.

Parental Controls

  • Use device-based parental control tools to filter content and limit access to specific websites and apps.

Lead by Example

  • Demonstrate responsible and safe internet use to your children, setting a positive example for them to follow.
  • Help your kids develop the skills to assess online information and recognise potential scams or risks.

Online Privacy

  • Teach them about safeguarding their online privacy, emphasising what information to share and with whom.

Online contacts

  • Caution them about meeting strangers online and remind them that not everyone is who they claim to be.



Look after yourself

It’s important to take good care of yourself - your well-being matters. You may find it helpful to talk to someone supportive too.

It’s not easy watching someone you care about going through a difficult and traumatic experience. Supporting a child or young person through a bereavement can also be incredibly challenging, especially if you’re grieving the loss as well.  Sometimes, the things that another person has experienced can start to have a second-hand effect on you also.

To be able to give others good support, you need to prioritise looking after yourself and take some time to yourself when you can.


Support services




Useful websites and other information


Downloadable resources