Helping Children After Tragic Events: Information For Parents & Caregivers

Help kids by turning off the TV and listening.

It’s important for adults to understand the serious impact that tragic events can have on kids, and how to help them.

To comfort kids, parents and caregivers can spend more time with children, talking and listening to them.

It is a good idea to:

  • Turn off the TV or watch less.
  • Talk to children. Let them to ask questions and talk about what they feel.
    • For preschool-age children: explain that they are safe and far away from the event. Tell them that they can always come to you when feeling scared.
    • For school-age children: remind them that the disaster wasn’t their fault. Help them share their worries. Give them realistic information. Answer their questions calmly and tell them that they are safe.
    • For teens: let them know that feeling scared is common. Share your own feelings with them. Remind them that everyone needs family and friends for support.
  • Comfort children. Show concern. Play games together, read, color, or take a walk.
  • Stick with your regular routine. Routines can help children feel safe.
  • Learn children’s signs of stress.
    • Children of all ages can develop signs of stress.
    • They may cry a lot more, have headaches, and not sleep well.
    • They may act out or become withdrawn.
  • Know when and where to get help if your child is stressed. Read below for information and resources.


Your reaction to a tragic event affects your ability to help your child. Adults should also get help when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Find resources and programs that can help you by visiting these links:

You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline, which provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

Callers and texters are connected to trained and caring professionals from a network of crisis centers across the country. Helpline staff provide supportive counseling, including information on common stress reactions and healthy coping, as well as referrals to local disaster-related resources for follow-up care and support.

Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs or Hablanos to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

The Disaster Distress Helpline’s number 1-800-846-8517 is available to all hard of hearing and deaf people.


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.

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