Social media (Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Twitter, and on and on) and 24-hour news provides a constant source of unending information that can spread like wildfire. Shielding your child from news and information is not an option. What’s a parent to do? Don’t be afraid of starting conversations about hard topics. These conversations are a must. Keep the lines of communication open. Calm and Connection are the key!


  • Talking makes it easier to make sense of scary things. In the absence of true information, kids’ imaginations will fill in the gaps with worst-case scenarios. 

  • Having hard conversations gets easier if you practice! No one ever got it right the first time. Part of getting it right is not being too scared you might say the wrong thing. Kids are forgiving and you can always repair or reframe it. Communicate that even though it’s hard to talk about, you’re there to listen, no matter what.  

  • If kids find having hard conversations difficult, you can suggest drawing out their feelings or writing a note that you read later, giving them distance from their feelings so they are not so overwhelming at once. 


  • It’s OK if you don’t know the answer. You can take time to figure out how you feel and what you want to say. 

  • Understand your own emotions first so you don’t unknowingly transmit your own anxiety to your children. Kids can be incredibly skilled at reading people, especially the adults they trusted. Recognizing when your own emotions may impact your own child is key to helping your child stay safe and calm.You might decide your spouse, partner or other trusted adult would be better in this situation. If you find yourself becoming emotional after starting the conversation, normalize that it’s OK to have these emotions. Name it and pause. If needed, take a pause to let yourself have the feeling and then refocus. 

  • Talk to your spouse or partner and decide the language and the message. Mixed messages are even more confusing!! Consistency and repetition help build trust and strengthen the message in a positive way. 

  • Children often listen in to adult conversations, so be aware of your potential audience if you are discussing an event with another person. 


  • Approach your child during an activity, like eating dinner, playing, in the car or while doing something that doesn’t imply scary. Allow breaks. Eye contact is not necessary. Sometimes eye contact can make the conversation feel too intense. Avoid starting a conversation with, “We need to talk,” or “This is really important,” or “This is really scary.”

  • Remember it’s all in your delivery. Tone is everything. I like to make my voice “low and slow” meaning talk slowly and in a normal tone of voice, which naturally communicates safety and calm. 

  • Children may or may not have strong feelings about an event or even be aware of the event. Find out what they know, without interrogating them, by making a brief statement or observation. For example, I heard some people talking about __________. I wondered if you’d heard about it or you or your friends have been talking about it? This allows you to correct any mis-information as well as understand your child’s perspective and find out what they already know. 

  • Some kids truly may not be worried, so don’t create fear that isn’t there. The things that actually impact kids are usually the littlest things or the parts that you would least expect.

  • Listen to what your child has to say. Let your child’s answers guide your conversations. Let conversations occur naturally and potentially in small parts. It’s normal to take time to digest information. They may walk away and still be processing, this is one way they understand and manage how much they can take in at a time. If you’ve introduced a topic, you create a safe environment for them to bring up concerns when and if they have them. If they feel safe to talk, and something comes up, they will. 

  • Be brief. Stick to the facts. Be truthful. Respond at an age-appropriate level. Younger children may worry about more concrete, practical issues; whereas older children may worry more about the implications of an event or situation.

  • Provide reassurance about their safety if needed (i.e., what plans are in place) and what they can do if appropriate. If they seem fine, let it go. Trust that you know your kid best.

Teach them to speak up and speak out. Let their voices be heard. Teach them that individuals can make a difference.  


For a more in-depth resource and guide age by age, check out The Child Mind Institute’s Helping Children Cope after a Traumatic Event

Resources from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Families and Educators

Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers