How to Talk to Kids About Hurricanes & Other Disasters

talking to kids about natural disasters_cover_Bored Teachers
talking to kids about natural disasters_cover_Bored Teachers
author image_Julie CookThis article was written by Julia Cook - a parenting expert and children’s author. Her books have won multiple accolades, including several AEP (American Educational Publishers) Distinguished Achievement Awards, Mom's Choice Awards and National Parenting Seals of Approval. For more information, check out her website

When disasters, both natural and man-made occur, educators and parents are faced with the challenge of discussing tragic events with their children and students. Although these might be difficult conversations, they are important and necessary. Here are a few tips that you might find helpful:

1. Remain calm and reassuring.

calm_Bored Teachers

Create an atmosphere where children are comfortable talking and asking questions.

2. Always answer a child's questions truthfully with simple answers.

truth_Bored Teachers

You don't need to go into more detail than necessary, but lying to children or making up facts will ultimately confuse them. Eventually, when they find out the truth about what happened, they may struggle with trusting you in the future.

3. Be consistent.

consistency_Bored Teachers

You may be asked to repeat your answers several times. Be consistent in your reply, and realize that your repetitive answers are reassuring a child's "need to know" and building upon their sense of security.

4. Keep a familiar routine.

don't panic_Bored Teachers

Children often feel out of control when disasters occur. Keeping with a familiar routine is very important when trying to reestablish the security of feeling in control.

5. If a child asks a question that you do not know the answer to, it's okay to say, "I don't know."

6. Acknowledge and normalize children's thoughts, feelings and reactions. Help children understand why they feel this way.

7. Encourage kids to talk about disaster-related events on their terms.

talk_Bored Teachers

Never force a child to ask a question or to talk about an incident until he/she is ready.

8. Reassure children that many people out there are helping those who are hurting.

humanity_Bored Teachers 

You may want to let your child make a card for someone who is suffering. Giving to those in need of support allows a child to feel like he/she can make a difference in helping with a terrible situation.

9. Keep children away from watching news stations and listening to radio where the disaster is being discussed and replayed.

breaking news_Bored Teachers

Sensationalizing the events that have occurred will only upset and confuse your child/students further.

10. Promote positive coping and problem solving skills. 

positivity_Bored Teachers

Remember – You are your child’s/students’ coping instructor. Your children/students take note of how you respond to local and national events. They also may be listening to every word you say when you discuss these events with other adults.

11. Emphasize children’s resiliency. Fortunately, most children, even those who are exposed to trauma, are quite resilient.

12. Children who are preoccupied with questions and concerns about safety should be evaluated by a trained mental health professional.

mental healthcare professional_Bored Teachers

If your child suffers from sleep disturbances, anxiety, recurring fears about death, or severe separation anxiety from parents, contact your school counselor and/or pediatrician.

13. Strengthen friendship and peer support, and foster supportive relationships. There is strength in numbers!

14. Take care of your own needs. In order to be there for others, you have to take care of yourself.

15. Advanced preparation and immediate response will help with healing and coping.

hurricane prep_Bored Teachers

Explain that all schools have safety plans in place that are continually being evaluated and updated. Explain to your child/students that this is a good thing!

I wrote The Ant Hill Disaster after the Sandy Hook tragedy because I wanted to help teachers and parents have very difficult conversations with their children and students. I wanted to be general so that it could be used to discuss both man-made and natural disasters. After the Ant Hill School is destroyed, a little boy ant is afraid to go back to school. His mom caringly explains to him that sometimes things happen in life over which we have no control, but we have to find a way to keep living and growing. To do that…

"We breathe in and breathe out, and hold onto each other. We shed a lot of tears, and we love one another. We all come together as a strong team of ONE, and then we rebuild, and get things done!" – The Ant Hill Disaster

Ant Hill Disaster


I partnered with Michele Gay, founder of Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative on this book, and a portion of the proceeds benefit Safe and Sound's programs to empower safer schools. This book can help assure children that through love, empathetic understanding, preparation, and effective communication, they can stand strong, even in the midst of uncontrollable events.

SHARE the LOVE! :) 

bored teachers blog

Other Posts You'll Also Love:16 Awesome Things You Need If You're a Teacher16 Awesome Things You Need If You're a Teacher

How It Feels to Be a Teacher for an Entire DayHow It Feels to Be a Teacher for an Entire Day

15 Amazing Ideas to Make Your Classes Awesome15 Amazing Ideas to Make Your Classes Awesome

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You may also like View all