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How to Talk to Your Children About Traumatic News Stories?

With the 24-hour news cycle and social media, children can learn about what is happening around the globe easier than ever before. Sometimes the news can positively influence their lives and offer an opportunity for them to take a stand on critical issues. This allows children to become more knowledgeable about the world around them. The news about conflict, injustice and violence though can negatively affect their lives.

Your children need your help to understand what’s going on, but it can be tough to talk to them about traumatic stories in a way they can make sense of things. To make them feel more comfortable in these conversations, consider the following steps.

Learn More about What Your Child Already Knows

  • Learn more about what they know about current events- If you have school-aged kids, ask them about what they have heard from their school and friends.
  • Consider your child’s age- Young children may not understand whether traumatic news stories are real or just fantasy. Keep this in mind when talking to them.
  • Let the child be the guide- Children will respond differently to news and current events. If your child is not curious and tends to withdraw from the reality of traumatizing events, you don’t have to force the conversation.

Answer Questions Honestly, But Keep it Brief

  • Be honest and communicate the essential things– Ensure you are the child’s reliable source of information. Only provide specific details of what they are not concerned about.
  • Listen to them– Graphic news stories can instill fear in young children especially. This can make them concerned that a similar scenario could happen to them and your family. Older children can also have these issues, so you need to listen to your child and help them manage the fear. Your willingness to listen to them and your response can go a long way.
  • You don’t need to have all the answers– If your child asks a challenging question that you may not be able to answer, it’s okay to tell them you will find out or take time to research together.

Help Your Child Feel in Control

It’s essential to encourage your child to communicate about what they feel in all aspects of life, not just in relation to the news they see on TV or online. If your child is frightened to talk about the news, listening to them can help overcome the fears. If they have been uncharacteristically quiet, always consider initiating the conversation.

It helps to ask your child why they think a particular story featured. This way, you will transform the frightening news feature into a discussion about the news’s intent and role.

It’s important to prepare your children for the things they will see in this world. If the news is about a natural disaster or a pandemic, you can create a plan to stay safe and protect others. After tragic events, you can also talk to them about how you can help in the situation.

You may also want to transform a specific story into a conversation by talking about how you can enhance cooperation and help the affected cope with the hardship.

To help your child not leave the conversation feeling depressed, reflect and be grateful for the positive things you have. This can help keep your kids hopeful and reassured.

Limit Their Exposure to the News

It’s important to consider the age of your children and figure out what type of news is good for them to watch. You may also need to ask them if they want to take breaks and talk about a topic, particularly if you feel a specific topic is complex for them.

It’s okay to switch off the TV to regulate their exposure to difficult news. You may need to explain why you don’t want them to have too much exposure to information. It would also be best if you considered watching the news together and switching off the TV if a particular story isn’t suitable for your child.

Keep the Conversation Going

Ask your children what they think about the events on the news. Keep an eye on them as well, and reach out to schedule a consultation with us if you believe your child is experiencing increased nightmares after consuming traumatic content. It could be beneficial to work with a behavioral therapist if your child shows a change in behavior after watching a sad story on the media.

Schedule a Consultation Today

Are you concerned about your child’s reaction to media consumption or how to approach complex topics with them? We can help you at denova Collaborative Healthcare in Arizona. Get in touch with us now to schedule an appointment with our behavioral health specialists.

Start Your Path to Better Health Today with Denova

Schedule your appointment now and experience health care that meets you where you are. Same day, next day appointments for Psychiatry, Therapy and Primary Care available.


Amanda Keenhold, LAC

Licensed Associate Counselor

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