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Talking with Children About Disasters

A Guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Disasters and traumatic events  are scary—for children and for adults. Children and youth can face emotional strains after a traumatic event such as a car crash or violence. Disasters also may leave them with long-lasting harmful effects.

When children experience a trauma, watch it on TV, or overhear others discussing it, they can feel scared, confused, or anxious. Young people react to trauma differently than adults. Some may react right away; others may show signs that they are having a difficult time much later. As such, adults do not always know when a child needs help coping. Adult support and reassurance is the key to helping children through a traumatic time.

SAMHSA fact sheet with helpful resources for parents, caregivers, and teachers to learn some common reactions, respond in a helpful way, and know when to seek support

U.S., Department of Health and Human Services Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4732, (Revision of KEN-01-0091/KEN-01-0093; Revised 04/2007; Revised 11/2012)