How to Talk to Children After a Crisis

  • Updated: July 25, 2022

    This is a photo of the U.S. flag at half-mast

    Traumatic incidents like school shootings, global pandemics, severe weather events and suicides can trigger feelings of anxiety, vulnerability, and fear in children. We know these topics are often difficult to address. We’ve collected the crisis resources and tips below, which have been developed to help educators and parents navigate conversations about crises with children of different ages.

Resources for parents and schools

  • National Education Association’s School Crisis Guide — Knowing what to do in a crisis can be the difference between stability and upheaval. This step-by-step resource created by educators for educators can make it easier for union leaders, school district administrators, and principals to keep schools safe — before, during, and after a crisis. 

    National Child Traumatic Stress Network — NCTSN has several pdfs and other resources for helping parents and children deal with catastrophic mass violence events, including parent tips for helping school-age children after disasters, which lists children’s reactions with examples of how parents should respond and what they should say. 

    Helping Children Cope with Tragedy — The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) offers tips in English and Spanish to help parents and caregivers know how to help children cope with tragic events.

    Talking to Children About Tragedies and Other News Events  — The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents, teachers, childcare providers, and others who work closely with children to filter information about the crisis and present it in a way their child can accommodate, adjust to, and cope with. 

    Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News (PBS) — It’s normal for both adults and kids to feel anxious after such a publicly devastating event, but there are things you can do to minimize the stress and maintain a sense of normalcy. 

    Care for the Caregiver: Guidelines for Administrators and Crisis Teams (National Association of School Psychologists) — Following a crisis, teachers are often required to provide additional support to students in their classes. While they provide daily care for their students, these demands may go well beyond their training or expertise after a tragedy. It is crucial for caregivers to monitor their own reactions and take care of their own needs, as failure to do so can affect their mental health.

    Incidents of Mass Violence (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) — Learn about who is most at risk for emotional distress from incidents of mass violence and where to find disaster-related resources. 

    Know The Signs: You Can Prevent Gun Violence and Other Harmful Acts — Sandy Hook Promise offers a list of potential warning signs that can signal an individual in crisis or need of help.

About CSSS

  • Center for Safe and Secure Schools

    Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools (CSSS) was established in 1999 at the request of school superintendents to advance safe and secure environments for learning and teaching. CSSS partners with federal, state and local entities to take the lead in the development of increased safety and security strategies, standards and best practices for K-12 school environments for both students and educators. CSSS continually seeks new and innovative opportunities to build safer and more secure learning environments.

    If you have questions about school safety or would like to partner with CSSS, call us at 713-696-0771.

Contact Us

  • Center for Safe and Secure Schools
    A Division of Harris County Department of Education
    6005 Westview
    Houston, TX 77055

    Phone: 713-696-0771

    Staff Directory

Upcoming Workshops