Talking to Children about Disasters

Disasters can have a huge impact on those involved, and children are no exception.

Understandably, younger ones may feel confused or frightened after a traumatic event or disaster. The good news is, children are fairly resilient, even those exposed to a traumatic event.

Give children basic information to help them understand, without overwhelming them with alarming details. Create an environment where children feel free to ask questions to help them understand and successfully cope. These may be hard conversations, but they are important.

Children can definitely benefit from capable adults who can help them learn to cope effectively. Here are some tips.

  • Use concepts and words that children can understand. Consider the child’s age as well as his or her developmental level.
  • Be prepared to repeat explanations and vital information. Remember that for a child, some concepts may be hard to understand or accept. This may be the child’s way to ask for reassurance.
  • Acknowledge the child’s reactions, feelings, and thoughts. Then validate. Make them feel that their concerns are appropriate and important.
  • Allow and help children to express themselves. Some are not comfortable verbalizing their fears, thoughts, and feelings. They may be more at ease playing, drawing pictures, or putting their feelings on paper.
  • Also keep in mind that children learn from watching their parents or other adults. They will listen to your conversation with others. Children are very observant, and during a trying time, they will be interested to see how you respond and cope.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ page: