Helping Children After Tragic Events: Stop Watching, Start Talking

Watching and listening to very bad news reports can upset children. Children can be scared by mass violence, hurricanes, wildfires, and other terrors on their televisions, smartphones, and screens. Luckily, parents, caregivers, teachers, and healthcare providers can do a lot to help children feel safer and less stressed. Turning off the TV and other screens is a good start.

Children of color are particularly vulnerable and need support and attention when they’re a witness to violence and trauma—especially when it's happening to people who look like them. Read more about how to Help Children of Color Heal from Collective Trauma.

News coverage of tragic events is not healthy for kids. Here's why.

  • The constant news of tragic events can be intense and hard to avoid.
  • When an event is on the news around the clock, it doesn’t go away for a child.
  • The constant news of the event can hurt a child’s mental and physical health. They can feel less secure and safe.
  • Even when an event takes place far away from a child’s home, seeing the event on TV can make the child feel like it’s a threat to them and the people they love.
  • Mental stress from a disaster can be harder on children than on adults.
    • Children feel less of a sense of control.
    • Children understand less about the situation.
    • Children have fewer experiences bouncing back from hard situations.

You can help kids after these events. Here's how.

  • Ask them: What have you already heard about the event? Do you have any questions?
  • Share basic information, not the details.
  • For younger children: turn off the TV, the radio, and the computer or tablet.
  • For older children: watch a news report with them and help them to understand it.

Parents, teachers, doctors, and others can make a difference. Click the buttons above to find specific tips, activities, and resources.