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. But even older children can be traumatized by imagery that adults can handle. If you are a family with a TV often dialed into the news, consider turning the channel or turning it off to preserve your child’s well-being. Here are seven more tips and additional resources to help:

  1. If your child asks you a difficult question, find out what your child knows already so that you can correct misinformation. Be prepared to be asked the same question again as your child thinks about issues that trouble them.
  2. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and use feeling words. Talking to your child about traumatic events can help them process what they’re seeing and hearing around them. You don’t need to have all the answers. Instead, focus on short, simple statements to invite discussion, such as, “Something bad happened, and I’m feeling scared. How are you feeling?” Colorín Colorado shares more tips for talking to children about school violence and reassuring their safety.
  3. Be sensitive that some children are especially likely to be fearful if they have experienced a personal loss or trauma, such as neighborhood violence or death or serious illness in the family.
  4. When your child asks questions, be aware of your own feelings of shock, anger, or sadness. Your child is likely to reflect them.
  5. 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 your child, your family, and the school and local communities safe.
  6. Encourage your child to take action by sharing concerns about safety with school officials and by developing their own personal safety plan.
  7. Being proactive can help. Even before a crisis hits, you or a group in your school or community can begin learning how to respond to neighbors in the aftermath of a tragedy. You can get professional training through crisis intervention groups such as the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation or the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Both organizations also offer crisis intervention services when needed.