When something as unfathomable as an act of terrorism or a natural disaster occurs, children are exposed to images and sounds that may be difficult for them to process.
Since it can be difficult enough for mature adults to wrap their heads around tragedy, here are some resources to help you talk with, and listen to, the kids in your life.
- PBS Parents’ Talking with Kids About the News – Includes how to start conversations and age-by-age insights.
- The Fred Rogers Company on Tragic Events in the News – Includes ways to help children feel more secure, and a list of truly useful “helpful hints.”
- Scholastic’s Parent & Child blog on Explaining Scary News to Kids
Books to Read with Younger Kids
by Jo Empson
K-3rd Grade: Rabbit enjoys doing rabbity things, but he also loves un-rabbity things! When Rabbit suddenly disappears, no one knows where he has gone. His friends are desolate. But, as it turns out, Rabbit has left behind some very special gifts for them, to help them discover their own unrabbity talents! Rabbityness celebrates individuality, encourages the creativity in everyone and positively introduces children to dealing with loss of any kind.
My Father’s Arms Are a Boat
by Stein Erik Lunde
K-3rd Grade: Unable to sleep, a young boy climbs into his father’s arms and asks about birds, foxes, and whether his mother will ever awaken, then under a starry sky, the father provides clear answers and assurances.
Why Did It Happen? Helping Children Cope in a Violent World
by Janice Cohn.
K-3rd Grade: With the help of his parents and teacher, a young boy deals with his feelings about the robbery of the neighborhood grocery store. Includes a note to parents.
A Terrible Thing Happened
by Margaret M. Holmes
K-3rd Grade: After Sherman sees something terrible happen, he becomes anxious and then angry, but when a counselor helps him talk about these emotions he feels better.
Books for Older Kids: Stories about Coping with Tragedy
by Bethany Hamilton with Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh
6th Grade and up: Bethany Hamilton, a teenage surfer lost her arm in a shark attack off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Not even the loss of her arm keeps her from returning to surfing, the sport she loves.
A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
6th Grade and up: Thirteen-year-old Conor awakens one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window, but not the one from the recurring nightmare that began when his mother became ill–an ancient, wild creature that wants him to face truth and loss.
Written for Adults, but Appropriate for Teens: One moment Josh Sundquist was your typical energetic and inquisitive nine year- old boy. The next, his entire life changed when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a particularly virulent cancer strain that would eventually claim Josh’s left leg.
Fire in the Streets
by Kekla Magoon
For 6th Grade and up: In the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, Chicago fourteen-year-old Maxie longs to join the Black Panthers, whether or not her brother Raheem, ex-boyfriend Sam, or her friends like it, and is soon caught up in the violence of anti-war and civil rights demonstrations.
Books for Parents
Marans suggests that in order to help children deal with fear, parents need to begin working through their own fears, set aside their ideas about what children are feeling and learn from children themselves, and pay attention to the ways kids communicate more with actions than words.
How To Talk To Your Kids About Really Important Things
by Charles E. Schaefer and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo
For children age four to twelve, includes specific questions and answers and useful things to say.
Childhood should be a precious time of oasis from the realities of the adult world, yet in todays fast-paced, achievement-obsessed, ever-more-dangerous society, this is increasingly not the case. This books includes practical, hands-on steps parents can take to create a safe, open, and imaginative environment for kids.