Skip to content

How to Talk to Your Kids About Difficult News

How to Talk to Your Kids About Difficult News



By Z. Andrew Jatau

By Z. Andrew Jatau

By Z. Andrew Jatau

As a parent, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to shield your kids from disturbing events that are happening in the world. Kids today have almost unlimited access to news and no longer rely on parents to be the gatekeepers of tragic events that happen in this country or abroad.

Since your kids are being exposed to tough topics (probably at an earlier age than you may like), it is helpful to know how to have discussions with them that leave them feeling safe and supported.  Here are a few steps that you can take to make sure that happens.


Prepare for the conversation

Whenever you’re talking to a child about a disturbing event, it is important for you to be informed about the topic yourself.  This helps you feel prepared to answer any questions that might come up during the discussion.  This is also a good time to prepare analogies or examples that you can use with your child that may help them better understand the situation.  You can use examples from their favorite T.V. shows or from their personal experiences.  Doing so can help them better relate and empathize with what’s going on.


See what they know

When you begin the discussion, you should first check in to see how much they know about the current event. This can be as simple as asking them directly, “What have you heard about _____?”  As they are answering, you can get a better understanding about what they know. This is important because there might be certain details that you’d rather not bring up if you don’t feel like they’re at an age to understand.


Explore feelings

How to Talk to Your Kids About Difficult News (2)

Focus the conversation on how your child is being impacted by the news.  Ask them how they felt when they first heard about it, and check in to see how they are currently feeling.  Younger kids may not be able to fully understand and vocalize their thoughts and feelings.  Using tools, such as a feelings chart can be beneficial.  Sharing and defining how you’re feeling can be helpful to them as well.  For further feelings exploration, you can ask them to share examples of when they’ve felt that way before.


Identify coping skills

This is an opportunity for your child not only to express their feelings, but to also come up with healthy ways to cope.  You can ask them how they would typically cope with the feelings that they've shared with you.  You can work together to come up with new coping skills specific to the current situation.  In the following days, remind your child of the coping strategies they'd identified, and you can even take time to participate in these healthy coping skills with them.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Difficult News (1)

When hearing about sad and unfortunate things happening to other people, feelings of helplessness can arise in both adults and kids.  A helpful way of coping is to come up with something you can do for those affected by the situation.  This can be something such as volunteering time, writing a note, or doing a craft together.


In closing

While you can’t always protect your child from receiving difficult news, you can help them learn to be resilient by teaching them to express their feelings and cope in a healthy way.  Throughout the process, you want your child to know that they can always depend on you as a source of encouragement and support.


New call-to-action


Follow us for articles, inspiration, informative web series, videos and all things mental health.

Follow Us