Talking with children about a major emergency

A guide to supporting your primary pupils and talking to them about distressing events in the news.

School children in classroom
Lesson plan
Disasters and emergencies

How can primary teachers support children when shocking and distressing events appear in the news? There are no easy answers, but understanding, observation and compassion are important.

This resource presents guidance for teachers, informed by psychosocial practitioners at the British Red Cross. It also includes activities to help children explore their emotions following a traumatic event in the news.

Note: This guidance is for children learning about major emergencies indirectly. If they or someone they know were involved and you think they may be experiencing trauma, your local CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) might be able to help.

Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • have the opportunity to express themselves
  • be reassured that it is normal to feel upset by the events
  • be aware of who they can talk to if they need extra support.


Resource overview

1. Teacher guidance

Advice for teachers on how to approach the subject, reassure their pupils and how to recognise if they may need some extra support.

2. Classroom activity: How to help

Learners imagine that another child is upset. Create a mind map ideas of how they could help them and then create a role-play to practise.

3. Classroom activity: Coping strategies

Learners consider their own coping strategies and discuss with the group.

4. Plenary: Helpful notes

Learners complete the sentences to review the ideas and strategies for helping others and coping.


This resource was written by P J White of Alt62 and published in May 2017. It was reviewed and updated in November 2017.

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