How to talk to children about traumatic current events and media exposure

As much as possible, keep children away from media coverage following traumatic events such as the Nashville, TN bombing and the Washington DC Capitol Hill riot. For younger children, this is easy. Keep the news turned off and avoid talking about the events when they are nearby. For school-age children, especially those with access to social media, exposure to images and details of both events is plentiful. In this case, it is important to 1) communicate and 2) limit media exposure.

It is important to share as many details with children as you feel is developmentally appropriate about the events. Follow the lead of the child – if they have questions, answer them. If you are unsure of how to answer, simply tell them you will try to find the answers and discuss with them when you do. Some children will not have many questions at all while other may have several. There is no need to tell them more than they are asking about. If you are working with a group of children, carve out additional time for those who have more questions, need discussion and can voluntarily participate.

Encourage all children to limit their exposure to media. Let them know that being informed is alright but to watch the news and media several hours per day over the course of days on end is not healthy. The developing brains of children and adolescents are not equipped to buffer the stress of a constant barrage of negative news that often includes terrifying images and videos. For this reason, limits should be established. When media is viewed, a caring adult who can help them process what they read, see and hear is necessary.

Dr. Caelan Soma

By Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW

Dr. Caelan Soma, PsyD, LMSW, Chief Clinical Officer, provides oversight for all clinical operations and research at Starr Commonwealth. Dr. Soma provides trauma assessment and trauma informed, resilience focused intervention for youth utilizing evidence-based practices, including TLC’s SITCAP® model programs.


About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact info@starr.org or call 800-837-5591.