Talking to kids about tragedy

How to talk to your child about events with no easy explanation.

By GreatSchools Staff

Whether it's a school shooting or a natural disaster, TV images of tragedies may upset and confuse your child. How should a parent talk about events that raise questions with no easy answers?

Experts advise that when your child asks questions, it's important to respond honestly but with answers that are simple and age-appropriate. Limit exposure to frightening TV and newspaper images, particularly for elementary school children. Small children may not realize that a tragedy isn't happening over and over when the TV plays the same images again and again. Here are five more tips and additional resources to help:

  1. If your child asks you a difficult question, find out what she knows already so that you can correct misinformation. Be prepared to be asked the same question again as she thinks about issues that trouble her.
  2. Be sensitive that some children are especially likely to be fearful if they have experienced a personal loss, such as death or serious illness in the family.
  3. When your child asks questions, be aware of your own feelings of shock, anger or sadness. Your child is likely to reflect them.
  4. Learn the emergency and communications plans at your child's school. Talk to your child about the steps school officials, the police and community leaders are taking to keep her safe.
  5. Encourage your child to take action by sharing concerns about safety with school officials and by developing his own personal safety plan.