Tragic events are hard enough for adults to understand, let alone children.

They may become upset if they see news reports on television or hear radio accounts of what unfolded.

Centacare Deputy Director Director Pauline Connelly has these tips for managing children’s emotions around sad news.

  • Be mindful

“Try and protect them from the news. Don’t leave newspapers with garish or confronting images lying around.

“If you want to watch the news, perhaps mute certain segments, or record it and watch it when the children are in bed.  Given we can access news 24/7, I don’t think that’s unreasonable to ask and it’s something we should consider.”


  • Listen and respond

“Children need to feel like they are listened to. If they say things like, `Why do men use guns, why are they hurting people?’ respond to them by explaining that sometimes people make bad decisions.

“If we minimise their worries or deny their questions by sending them off to play, that stays in them and they feel unheard.

  • Focus on the present

“Respond to their feelings around the event, rather than the context. You could say, `I guess you’re feeling a bit worried about what you saw’.

“Reassure them that those feelings are understandable but bring them back to the now where they are safe and happy.

“They will imagine things, so invite them back to their own little world.

“Reassure them that they are safe at home, that you are there, and that grown ups are working hard in Australia to make it a very safe place to live.”

  • Nurture healing through creativity

“Depending on their age, some children will want to be proactive and feel like they’re contributing to something, and making a difference.

“Perhaps encourage them to do something positive, such as writing a prayer or drawing a picture to post to Christchurch.

“This helps switch the focus away from what is making them sad to a sense of purpose that makes them happy.”