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Responding to Tragedy: Resources for Educators and Parents

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When tragic events happen, it can be difficult for educators, administrators, and parents to know how to help children understand and cope. How adults manage their own reactions, as well as how they help students deal with their questions and feelings, are important factors in providing children with the support and guidance they will need. Below are some useful, informative, and thoughtful resources for adults to help children through traumatic situations. Some of these resources are relevant to parents as well as educators.

Addressing Trauma and Grief at Home and in the Classroom

Tips for Talking to Kids About Trauma: The Greater Good Science Center produced this resource following the Paris attacks; it includes helpful information for starting a dialogue with children following traumatic events. You'll find tips for helping students express themselves as well as a list of outside resources for helping children respond to grief and trauma.

Resources for Responding to Trauma and Tragedy: This collection from Edutopia features resources in a variety of areas, including trauma's effect on learning, supporting students who have experienced trauma, and more. There are links to Edutopia content and also articles and guides from around the web.

A Teachers’ Guide for Managing Emotional Reactions to Traumatic Events: The National Association of School Psychologists produced this guide for responding to traumatic events in the classroom. You’ll find strategies and tips for talking with students of all ages, with different guides for various age groups. Teachers will learn how to model coping strategies for students, and there’s a wealth of useful information about monitoring students’ emotions.

Helping Young Children Cope With Trauma: This downloadable PDF from the American Red Cross features a brief overview of how children of different age levels react to tragic events. A tips list details how families can respond and includes advice for when to seek professional help.

A Comprehensive Guide for Talking With Kids About the News From PBS Parents: There are many useful strategies for discussing tragedy with children in this guide. Parents will find a list of strategies for listening and talking to help young people communicate their feelings and strategies to help soothe and reassure children. There are age-specific strategies and discussion starters.

Resources for Managing Child Traumatic Stress: This is an exhaustive collection of information for helping children through a variety of stressful and traumatic situations. Produced by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, these resources are arranged by topic with guides, explanations, tips, and advice in each section. Additionally, NCTSN's Parenting in a Challenging World collection features tips relevant to parents.

Resources for Grieving Children and Families: From the New York Life Foundation and various partners, this site has a variety of resources for children, teens, and families responding to tragedy. Included are links to resources from the foundation’s partners, including Sesame Street Workshop, Scholastic, and Camp Erin, as well as outside links to useful resources.

Responding to Natural Disaster

Helping Children Cope With Natural Disaster and Catastrophe: Bright Horizons produced this helpful guide, "What Happened to My World," which offers assistance to parents and adults who want to talk to young people about natural disasters and the effects on communities. Bright Horizon’s guide provides powerful tips for working with children of any age and strategies for offering honest, reassuring answers to their questions.

Helping Children After a Natural Disaster -- Information for Parents and Teachers: This is a comprehensive resource from the National Association of School Psychologists. It’s part preparation guide, part crisis-response resource. This guides features strategies for responding to a variety of disasters and for helping children cope. (Note: This is just one resource from the NASP; the organization hosts a wealth of resources online for many different situations.)

More Resources for Responding to Tragedy From Edutopia

More Resources From Around the Web

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Thanks for this roundup of useful resources Matt. Unfortunately tragedies are becoming more and more frequent. Last week alone I think there were five school shootings. These types of tragedies are especially hard and I can't even begin to explain to children why they happen.

I loved this quote from David Markus "Words fail. Our hearts are broken. Only deeds matter after tragedy takes away our children and the adults who teach and care for them." Taken from his blog "Unspeakable Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School"

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

There's also something to be said for simply filtering out the adult world whenever possible, particularly with young children. Kim John Payne writes about this a bit in "Simplicity Parenting" (

: Children are often offered too much adult information, too much emotional clutter, before they have built the foundation to process it. This chapter points out that too much information does not prepare children for the grown-up world, rather, it paralyzes them. With great intentions, we lecture kindergarteners about shrinking oil reserves and world hunger - these topics are popping up more and more in children's books and on children's TV. We may think we are helping to create young activists, but childhood is not a time for these anxieties."

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

This is a great list of resources. Like Elana said, this is unfortunately becoming more and more frequent. It's also important for teachers to check in with themselves as they help their students through difficult times. There are tons of resources specifically for teachers. Here are two articles to help you support your own mental health:

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