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How to talk with kids about the trauma in the world today

Updated: May 27, 2022

The shooting in Texas and in New York have again shaken the foundation of our society. The littlest of us, our children, are affected by these types of issues. In working with children over the last 30+ years and raising my own children, I share some things that have helped me help others:

  1. Children, and the rest of us, are worried about our own safety so assurance that our own home and school are safe. This must be done truthfully so we cannot promise what we cannot guarantee. We can make sure that our children understand that they are heard so instead of “Your school is completely safe and this will never happen to you.” Something more like, “I hear that you feel frightened. Your school has a School Resource Officer and checks in all adults through the front of the school to keep strangers from being able to get into the school.” This validates what the child is feeling and shares the safety measures in place to protect.

  2. Children are curious and want to understand so they may ask questions about what has happened. Answer truthfully but only at the developmental level of the child. It is helpful to answer only what the child has asked without giving extra information.

  3. We all have strong feelings about the violence going on in the world. We feel empathy toward the victims and might even feel sadness toward the perpetrators in terms of thinking about how this person has come to this point in their lives that they would do such a horrible thing. Validate these feelings for yourself and your child without judgement.

  4. In the coming days this can be a time to share your own value system with your children and why you think something is right or wrong. As parents you are their first teacher and continual teacher of values. In thinking about sharing your values be careful of your own anxiety around the current issues of violence as our children look to us in how to react so you having a healthy reaction of sorrow will encourage your children to understand sorrow as part of life and how to move forward.

As I learned from one young man of 10 who lived through a school shooting, “It is okay to be afraid, but it is not okay to stay afraid all the time.”


Written exclusively for Jenkins Richardson and Associates and Full Well Counseling & Neurofeedback by Millie Dawson-Hardy, PhD.



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