Dealing with traumatic news: how to talk to your children about it

We live in a world where, unfortunately, our children are subjected to traumatic news. Do you know how to talk to your children about traumatic events when they happen?

Thanks to TV, internet, media and social media, when traumatic world events occur we–our children included–get a constant stream of headlines, upsetting stories and images. More often than not traumatic news is the topic of conversation in schools, workplaces and at home. For all of us, this can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry. For children, this can be truly distressing.

Whether you’re a parent, teacher or carer, it’s hard to know how to tell our children and what to tell them about traumatic events.

Should we even tell our kids about traumatic events?

If your child mentions something about the event or asks you a question, it is encouraged to discuss this with them. If younger children haven’t mentioned it or haven’t been exposed to news or media that cover it, there is no need to proactively bring it to their attention.

You want to ensure the information you tell them is age appropriate, and factual. For example, if a younger child mentions a war that is taking place, you could tell them, “Sometimes people in different countries disagree on who should be in charge. Sometimes when this happens, a war might start. However, this war is very far away, and we are not in danger”.

You want to keep your answers simple but honest. Watch your child’s reactions. If your child is typically anxious, consider this when deciding what information to tell them. If you are still unsure what to tell them, consider seeking advice from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist.

How do I reassure children?

Start by emphasising your child’s safety. If the event has occurred far away, ensure that the child knows this.

Remind your child that if they have more questions, or if any feelings arise about the topic, that they can come speak to you.

Do not dismiss their concerns.

If a child asks a question such as, “Are we going to be invaded?”, or, “Are we all going to die?”, reassure them that this is not going to happen. Validate your child’s feelings and try to understand why they have these concerns.

Remember to continue to check in with your child and remind them that they can come speak to yourself or a trusted adult if they need to.

How do we discuss traumatic news and events?

Discussing world events and traumatic news can be difficult. If you don’t know how to start, begin by asking the child what they already know about the topic. We don’t want to assume what they already know about the topic or what their feelings might be.

Discuss where they have got this information from and correct any misconceptions the child may have. With such easy access to social media, children have access to misleading and incorrect information, which may add to their fear. Children may even hear information from other children at school that may be incorrect. Where possible, monitoring your child’s access to news and social media pertaining to the event is important.

Try to remain calm yourself. Children will look to adults for reassurance and safety in times of need and will learn how to cope with world events by watching how you react. If you are feeling anxious or scared yourself, take some steps to ensure you are managing your feelings.

Remember to:

  • Ask the child what they know about the topic.
  • Use age-appropriate language.
  • Discuss factual information only.
  • Check in with your child.
  • Monitor your child’s reactions.
  • Stay calm.

Contact One Central Health Today For Professional Psychology Therapy To Cope with Traumatic News

If you would like professional guidance with coping with traumatic events on the news or even trauma in your life, please reach out to our friendly team. Our professional psychologists are experienced and trained to help you.

-Hayley Moulton, Provisional Psychologist

Share this article

We’re here to support you. Always.

Want to book an appointment or find out more?
Book online or give us a call today!