Talking to Children

By Educators for Social Responsibility

Should children watch coverage about tragedies and warfare? 

It depends on the age and maturity of the children. Parents may decide that some shows and topics are inappropriate. However, if children are going to watch programs about the event, we recommend that a parent or caregiver watch with them. Afterwards, talking together about reactions to the coverage and feelings about the event in general can help children make sense of a seemingly senseless tragedy.

How can I judge if a child is ready to talk about difficult events? 

Most children from age four to five and above would appreciate talking with adults they trust. In the media there is daily discussion of difficult topics, and it is likely that children know about them. However, it is also quite likely that they have some confusion about the facts and the magnitude of the danger they personally face. They often have mistaken information, questions, and some strong feelings. Often children are hesitant to share their questions and fears with adults. For this reason, we recommend that adults open the way for children to talk about their concerns.

How do I open up the subject with children? 

The key word here is LISTEN. Most experts agree that it is best NOT to open up a conversation with children by giving them a lecture – even an informal, introductory lecture – on the particular tragedy that is on the news. Don’t burden children with information they may not be ready for. The best approach is to listen carefully to children’s spontaneous questions and comments, and then respond to them in an appropriate, supportive way. Let children’s concerns, in their own words, guide the direction of the discussion.

Excerpted from “Talking to Children about Violence and other Sensitive and Complex Issues in the World.” For the complete article see

Winter 2001 / 2002