Talking with Kids About the News, Emergencies & Tragedy: For Home & Classroom

Talking with Kids About the News, Emergencies & Tragedy: For Home & Classroom

WXXI Education curated a list of resources to help adults (parents, caregivers, educators) discuss emergencies, news headlines and when tragedy strikes. 

Learn how to use discussion prompts, media, songs, books and activities to calm young people's fears, stimulate their minds, and encourage them to think about their place in today's world. This list includes the best in public media resources from PBS KIDS for Parents, Arthur, Mister Rogers, Sesame Street in Communities, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, PBS Newshour Extra and PBS LearningMedia to assist you. 

Resources for: Younger Children | Older Students

For Younger Children

These resources are appropriate for students PreK-5th grade.

PBS KIDS: When Something Scary Happens
These resources to help families cope in emergencies and other challenging times. The collection includes helpful items from Daniel Tiger and Arthur, such as:

  • How to make a family plan for emergencies
  • Video clips, songs and discussions when scary things happen
  • Activities and books to help with emotions and understanding.

PBS KIDS for Parents Talking with Kids About the News: 

Sesame Street in Communities Toolkits:

Arthur's Family Health - Resilience
What can we say to children when public tragedies, natural disasters, and upsetting events occur? How can we support our children during challenging times? And how can empathy build social skills? Here are some resources, activities, and videos to help you and your child cope and build resilience.

This list of resources includes articles and listening opportunities for adults that support children - focusing on how to approach talking about "terrible things" and strategies for having meaningful conversations about difficult topics. 

For Older Students

These resources are appropriate for middle and high school level students. 

PBS NewsHour & NewsHour Extra Resources:

  • PBS NewsHour Classroom Collection on PBS LearningMedia: This collection of daily and weekly news helps teachers and students identify the who, what, when, where, and why-it-matters of major national and international news stories. Created for educators to use with students in grades 7-12, the Latest News Story takes the best of the PBS NewsHour news program and pairs it with discussion questions, lesson plans, and stories developed specifically for students. Topics such as Civics and Social Studies, Media Literacy, STEM, English, Arts & Culture, Lessons and Activities give you the toolkit you need. to work with students. 

KQED's Above the Noise Collection:

  • Above the Noise Collection: Cutting Through The Hype: A collection of video prompts to disucss current issues of interest with teens. Above the Noise host Myles Bess takes viewers along on his journey to cut through the hype surrounding controversial topics in the news to find out what's really going on. Topics are updated regularly and address what teens are hearing about and give them ways to engage, think critically, and consider issues of the day that have meaning for them. 
  • A Few Suggested Discussion Questions in Discussing Government: 
    • What goes into peaceful transition of government look like? Why is it important?
    • What is peaceful protest? What are ways to express differences in our system?
    • What is importance of facts vs. hearsay?
    • Why is freedom of the press, assembly, speech, so important? What responsibilities go with those rights?
    • Why is discussion, problem-solving, and compromise important in making progress in making laws and policies.
    • What is democracy, republic, authoritarian government?
    • What powers does the U.S. Constitution provide to the people and each branch of government to balance powers and avoid any part of the government becoming too powerful?
    • How does the use of social media improve free speech and assembly? How is it an echo chamber?
    • Explain sections of the Constitution referenced in the news and responsibilities with each right. Discuss: What are citizen rights and responsibilities? What are responsibilitie of elected officials? How do we solve disagreements? How do we advocate?
    • For young students talking about how we make decisions, disagree and compromise. Also answering questions they have about events
    • How is freedom of the press important in our country? How would life be different if all of the news we received was controlled and run by our government? What are examples of countries where that is the case and how does it impact their lives?