How to Talk to Kids About Disasters

Keep these tips in mind when discussing disasters and tragedies in the news with kids.

By Reader's Digest Editors

Kids, from small children to teens, may be curious, concerned, or even terrified by what they’re seeing on the news. Instead of trying to dodge reality, keep these tips in mind when discussing difficult events with kids:

1. Validate their feelings. Trying to protect your children by telling them not to worry or think about disasters may be your first instinct, but it’s more helpful to let her know that you recognize she’s worried, and allow her to talk about her fears.

2. Explain the situation. When talking to kids about tragedies, it’s important to be truthful. If they don’t hear about what’s happening from you, they’ll hear about it at school or on the playground.

3. Clarify misconceptions. Sometimes we assume kids know more than they actually do, or they act savvier than they really are. Find out what your children believe they heard about an event and where they got this information. Explain to them that what you’ve said about the situation is reliable information you learned from sources that they can trust.

4. Don’t shy away from the tough stuff. Kids know that when disasters happen, people die. It’s okay to talk to your children about death and to let them know that you’re thinking about the people who died too. Remind your children that everyone in their lives is safe and in no danger of dying any time soon.

5. Reassure them, truthfully. Kids are afraid for the people affected by the disaster and they’re scared something similar will happen to them. Once you’ve discussed how and why the tragedy occurred, explain to your children that adults are working very hard to take care of the people affected and to make sure everyone will be safe. Reassure them that while we can’t prevent disasters from occurring, they happen very rarely and that right now, no one they love is in danger.

Sources: Shine.Yahoo.com, TheChildrensHospital.org, sfgate.com

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    • http://twitter.com/charliedogpets CharlieDog & Friends

      Or the tip from Mr. Roger, in his Neighborhood: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” If my own kids weren’t in college, that’s what I’d be saying to them. Look for the helpers.