Helping Children Navigate Scary Events

It’s not always easy to talk about “scary things” with children. It is important to remember that children of all ages look to their parents to make them feel safe. For this reason, we’ve compiled some tips from child development experts on how to best approach difficult topics.

Talking to your children about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. 

  • Start the conversation. Let your child know you are interested in them and want to know how they are coping with the information. Offer a safe space for your child to ask questions and express their feelings. Be sure to also provide straight facts and debunk myths or false information your child might have heard. For littles, answer questions as simply as possible. And just answer the question they ask—don’t wax on or give details they don’t ask for.
  • Limit their exposure to frightening media and avoid letting your child experience the news without you. Be there to talk about what they see and hear. School-aged children might hear about scary events from friends or on the Internet. When they do, ask your child: “What did you hear and how are you feeling?”
  • Suggest your child express their feelings through art and creative play. Art and creative play are wonderful ways for your child to process their feelings when they have a hard time expressing themselves through words.
  • Talk about the “helpers.” As Fred Rogers once said, when he was a child his mother told him to look for the people who are helping. You can reassure your child by talking about all the people who help keep our community safe, such as police, doctors, nurses, firefighters, etc.

In addition, the American Psychological Association suggests:

  • Keep your home a safe place. For a child, there is literally “no place like home.” Take extra care to make your home feel safe and comfortable.
  • Monitor adult conversations. Even between conversations with your partner or friend, your child is always listening. Be mindful of how you frame your conversations in the presence of your children when it comes to traumatic events.
  • Check in often. Provide extra time, attention and patience for your child.
  • Take care of yourself. Keep to your family’s regular schedules for activities such as family meals and exercise; don’t over-schedule yourself; eat healthy and get enough sleep. Remember to take breaks from news exposure; allow yourself time to engage in activities you enjoy.

Lastly, use your child’s developmental stage to help guide how to approach tough topics with your child and use your best judgment. As much as we want to shelter our kids from the horrors of the world, there will be times when we have to put our brave face on for our children. But with some conversation tools in our toolbelt, we can approach these tough talks with confidence and care. 

Need additional resources for talking with your child, or support for yourself? Click here

Scroll to Top