How to Talk to Your Kids about Tragedies in the World

Whether it’s the recent shootings in Las Vegas, Texas, or Florida, or natural disasters like the California wildfires and Hurricane Irma, there are some troubling things going on in the world today. These and other tragedies in the world can be really hard for a child to digest. In fact, they can even “cause short- and long-term effects on the psychological functioning, emotional adjustment, health, and developmental trajectory of children” if left unaddressed (1).

When these kinds of tragedies come up, how can we help our kids cope? Research provides the following recommendations (2)(3):

1. Find out what they know.

You won’t know where to start with your kids until you find out what they’ve already heard about the situation. This is also an important time to listen to what they’re feeling and let them ask any questions they have (4). As you find out what they know and what their feelings are, you’ll be able to better address their concerns.

2. Stick with the basics.

Kids don’t need to know the dirty details of the latest world event, and they especially don’t need to see graphic portrayals on the news. Help your kids be informed, but stick with basic information. Be ready to talk with your kids about anything disturbing they do happen to come across in the media.

3. Adjust based on age.

Kids of different ages will need to have different conversations with you about the tragedies going on in the world. With young kids, keep it simple but still inform them about what’s going on. Older kids may need more information and have more questions. Research shows that “how much detail to share will depend on [your children’s] ability to understand” (3).

4. Help them feel safe.

When natural disasters or other crises strike, your child may worry about safety. Let kids know how they are affected by the tragedy, and then help them see what is being done to keep them safe. If there is a way to help others who were affected, this can be a great chance to involve your child in relief efforts for people who were hurt.

Talking About Tragedy

A lot of traumatic events are going on in the world today, and your child will probably hear about them from peers, teachers, or the media. But as parents, you can take steps to help your kids cope with the tragedies. It’s important to find out what they know and what they’re wondering, then be honest with them in an age-appropriate way.

As you talk together, you can help your child feel safe even when so many perilous things happen in the world.

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1. Promoting adjustment and helping children cope. (n.d.). Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics website:

2. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016, July 9). Talking to children about tragedies & other news events. Retrieved from

3. Ginsburg, K. R., & Jablow, M. M. (2015, November 21). How to support your child’s resilience in a time of crisis. Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics website:

4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Tips for talking with and helping children and youth cope after a disaster or traumatic event: A guide for parents, caregivers, and teachers. Retrieved from

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