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How to Talk To Your Preschooler About A Crisis

With the recent news, it’s almost impossible to avoid all of the negativity going on in the world. The coronavirus, the economy, politics…you name it, it has been talked about extensively this past week and I have a feeling will continue to be over the next few weeks and months. We have a 4 year old and an almost 2 year old in our house. Rebecca (the 2 year old) is beautifully oblivious to everything going on, but Levi (the 4 year old) picks up on conversations as well as news stories.

He has questions. He asks them…after all, that’s what preschoolers do!

As a mom, I want to protect our children from everything, especially bad news. Recently, in our area there was a 15 month old who went missing and was later found dead. The story gripped the nation, but happened right in our own town. It broke my heart, and it still does. With that story, Levi heard us talking about it and saw the news stories of this beautiful little girl and reporters asking where she was….what happened to her?

I could have ignored him or brushed it off, or just never watch the news around him… but I didn’t. I’m not a parenting expert by any means but I always try to do what feels right and talking to him honestly about the situation felt right.

Now, with all of the coronavirus news stories going on, he has questions about that as well. I’ve had a few moms reach out to me recently asking how I’m talking to our preschooler about the crisis happening in the world and below I’ll outline how we’re handling it. Of course, these tips won’t be right for everyone. I encourage you to be thoughtful about how you handle these situations with your children. You know your child best!

How to Talk To Your Preschooler About Crisis

Be Honest, Yet Positive- We have always taken this approach with our kids. If Levi asks a question, we give him an answer. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we have to give him gruesome or scary details, such as in the situation with the missing toddler above. We simply told him that she was missing, they couldn’t find her and they were looking for her. When they found her and he asked about it, we told him that someone bad had hurt her and that the police were working to bring them to justice. We also told him that she’s safe in the arms of Jesus now. We were honest, but we also chose to focus on the small glimmers of hope in the story.

Remain Calm– It can be easy to let the stock market or lack of toilet paper at the store stress you out, but you have to remain calm if you expect your kids to remain calm. If are panicking and running around like chickens with our heads cut off, our kids will do the same. If the see that we are acknowledging what is going on yet addressing it in a calm manner – they will take a page out of our playbook and likely do the same. This is a good time to exhibit being calm, cool and collected…preschoolers grow up to be adults and these behaviors will go with them into adulthood.

Remind Them Who’s In Charge – Remind your children that you’re handling things, they’re safe and they shouldn’t worry. Our Levi is a worrier. He will ask about things months down the road. For example, our power went out a few weeks ago and he has asked about it a few times since then. He worries about it happening again. Small things to us can be very big and scary to preschoolers. We remind Levi that God’s in charge and that we (his parents) will keep him safe.

Divert Their Attention – I don’t know about your preschooler, but ours has this innate ability to not let things go. He gets something on his mind and he likes to talk about it over and over. When it comes to most things, that is not bad…he’s determined and focused. However, when it comes to a crisis, this can be detrimental. If I notice that Levi keeps talking about a crisis over and over, I divert his attention. I address his comment or question briefly then bring up something fun or ask him a question about something else. This isn’t sugarcoating or hiding things, but I think as parents we need to divert our little ones’ attention sometimes from all of the negativity in the world.

Allow Them to Help- Whether it’s taking a box of canned goods to your local food pantry, donating stuffed animals to a local children’s hospital or simply helping an elderly neighbor carry their groceries in…let your preschooler help. Let them see you helping others. We try to remind Levi that in times of crisis, always look for the helpers. Whether they’re police officers, firefighters, doctors, etc…we remind him to find the helpers and focus on them. We also remind him to focus on being a helper. Honestly, I think this is great advice for us as adults to remember as well.

Remind Them That This Too Shall Pass – As adults, we know that at some point or another the tide will change and this too shall pass. Stock markets go back up, people heal, people rebuild and life goes on. Not that I’m saying this to diminish the seriousness of any crisis, but as humans it helps us to remember that things will be ok. The same goes for little kids. They don’t understand time like we do, to them…what’s happening right now is all that they can focus on. We need to remind them that we’ve been through bad things before and we will get through them. This too shall pass!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help- If you’ve been through a major crisis such as the recent tornadoes in Nashville, your child may be very fearful. They’ve seen their hometown torn apart, and they’ve seen crisis first hand. You know your child best and if none of the above steps are working to calm your child, you may need to ask for help. Whether that comes in the form of a grandparent helping to discuss things with them or a professional, it’s ok to ask for help!

Again, you know your child best and you know how much information you can share with them, etc. I hope this post is helpful in some way, remember: together we will overcome!