A Glimpse Into "Bearapy"
(well, that's what Dr. Bear calls it)

We hope these anecdotes help to demonstrate how Teddy Bears and counselors do their important work. Any references to places, people and related events are omitted to maintain confidentiality. If you are a counselor with a helpful "bearapy" story to share, please email us

A young boy who lost a parent in a disaster is given a Teddy Bear by a counselor. The boy throws the bear aside. The counselor picks it up and hands it back. Again, the boy tosses the bear away. Once again, the counselor picks up the bear and holds it in front of the child. This time, the boy bites the bear's ear, drops the bear, jumps on it, and kicks it away. Once again, the counselor quietly picks up the bear, holds it in front of the child and says, "You know what? It's OK to feel mad. We're still here for you." The child takes the Teddy and begins to sob, finally releasing tears pent-up behind the anger.

A paramedic arrives at the scene of an auto accident involving a family. The parents are injured and their child is unharmed but panicked. The paramedic hands the child a Teddy Bear and says, "Would you keep this bear for me? He needs a good home right now and he's pretty upset. Can you look out for him while I help your parents?" The child transfers her own fears to the Teddy Bear and comforts it, allowing the paramedic to attend to the immediate needs of the injured parents.

Following a major earthquake, children panic with each aftershock. Counselors distribute Teddy Bears and teach the children how to hide under their school desks with their Teddy Bears and chant "Stop Earthquake Stop," while looking deep into their Teddy Bears' eyes. Amazingly, the first time the children try this, the aftershocks do stop! (We're not too sure how much the Teddy Bears actually stopped the aftershocks, but we do know it helped get the children safely under their desks without panicking.)

Two police officers arrive at the scene of a domestic dispute. The parents have been fighting, screaming, and hitting one another. Their children are greatly distressed. Officers give the children Teddy Bears to establish in the kids' minds that they are there to help and to give the children something comforting to hold in view of the chaos around them.

Children write a play (with the help of counselors) using their Teddy Bears as the puppet style actors. They put on their play for fellow students. It is all about how one brave Teddy Bear family coped with loss. The Teddy Bears get a standing ovation. And the play encourages discussion.

Military children face the deployment of parents into a war zone. Worried and confused, unable to articulate their fears, they "act out" and "regress." Counselors present them with Teddy Bears and Certificates of Appreciation for being brave and helpful at home. This lets the kids know that their feelings are OK, their contributions are important, and it encourages discussion.


How might children react to a disaster or other psychological trauma?


Children in an emergency shelter were wetting the beds at night because they were too scared to get up and go to the bathroom until they each got a Teddy Bear to take with them. Counselors also helped the staff understand that regressive behavior such as bedwetting is a normal aspect of post-trauma stress in children.

Other things children may tend to do:

cling to parents or older siblings and adults

be helpless in activities they normally do by themselves

be very moody, demanding and cry easily

have irregular sleep, appetite, and bathroom patterns

re-live the event through play (eg., make a building with blocks and then smash the blocks down)

bring up questions about the event repeatedly or at seemingly inappropriate times

appear not to care what happened at other times

Children often regress in behavior and emotional responses, one or even two stages of development below their normal pre-trauma level of functioning. This should be a temporary lapse and those involved with these children need to support them for a period of time lasting up to about one month. If the regressive behavior continues for longer than a month, seek professional help from a trained trauma provider. For help with referrals, we recommend starting with this fine organization:

National Organization for Victim Assistance

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