How to help young kids process upsetting events in the news

By Shelley Harris, Children’s Librarian

Well, 2021 has certainly begun right where 2020 left off: with a lot of tough topics. Even our youngest kids know when big or upsetting things happen in the news. They may not know the details, but they can see and feel the strong emotions of their grownups and that impacts them. 

Can you think of upsetting events that happened when you were a young child, and how your caregivers responded? For me, it was the Challenger explosion when I was four. I remember watching it happen with my mother, and what sticks out for me is her shock and horror. For many kids, last week’s riots will be an event they remember with clarity.

Below find resources to help children process difficult emotions through conversation and activities.

Watch these videos

New this week

This week, Miss Jenny and Ruthie made a video on processing feelings about big news events, which you may find useful for your children.

About the video from Miss Jenny

“In this video, it was really important that Ruthie (the child) led the conversation and that we modeled going at a pace that felt safe for her, so as not to cause any additional fear or trauma.

“Ruthie has a relationship with her viewers and has been vulnerable, sharing what she feels, how she feels, and how she copes. Art is one of her favorite ways to explore her feelings; mine is movement. It was important to show that we have different methods to cope and process, and we can still support one another.

“I used processing art or movement a lot in my previous role as a teacher and continue to use it in my role at the library, so I wanted to model this as well. Through experience, I have discovered that processing art and movement helps children process feelings and sometimes is a way to foster conversation.”

—Jenny Jackson, Community Engagement Coordinator

More videos about expressing emotions

Check out these earlier videos we’ve made on expressing emotions during scary times, as well.

If You’re Worried and You Know It is an easy way to segue into emotion check-ins:

In Too Many Emotions, Ruthie has so many emotions that she doesn’t know what to do with them.

Read these articles

Here are some of the resources Jenny used to make her video this week, which may help you as well.

Shelley Harris

About Shelley

Shelley is a children’s librarian with a passion for early literacy, serving and celebrating the disability community, and exploring technology. She can often be found practicing storytime songs with her black lab, Bingo.