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Helping Children Cope With Tragic Events

05/25/2022 | Health & Wellness

Photo of two adults comforting a child.

We want all children to grow up without fear, but know that even while they are still very young, children will experience stressful and traumatic situations. Events in the news can cause children who are aware of them anxiety or fear. It is comforting and empowering to know that there are skills children can learn to help them cope, and there are experts who can help us teach them.

The books and resources listed below are designed by early childhood experts to help you talk through fear and anxiety with your child. It is clear from the resources we have gathered that one of the best things we can all do is simply reassure children that many people - their family, their teachers, their neighbors, the people at daycare or church, or the library, love and care about them and are looking out for their safety.

Favorite stories can also be steadfast old friends to count on in times of trouble. Open a book. Start to read. Hold them close and revisit old friends together; Curious George, Arthur, The Little Engine That Could. Find the books in the bookcase with the dog-eared pages and the tell-tale bite marks on the spine; the ones you can probably recite without looking at the pages. Choose the one with the coffee ring on the cover for having been on the bedside table every night. Take advantage of the comfort and security that time spent with you and a good book can provide.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Professional Advice

The experts at Sesame Street have put together an online coping guide called Traumatic Experiences to help adults explain community violence to young children. The guide includes a variety of helpful videos that show familiar Muppet characters modeling various coping strategies. The guide also provides practical ideas to help adults with this difficult task. Related tools include storybooks, activities, and printables.

Violence in Communities (también disponible en español: Violencia En La Comunidad) In this video, Rosita comes to Allan upset after hearing that somebody hurt a lot of people. Allan's skilled responses are shared in the printable guide Troubling Times that provides helpful advice for answering some of the most challenging questions children ask. What happened? Why did these people do bad things? Will the bad people come to hurt us? Will this happen again?

Stand Tall Together (también disponible en español: Con la cabeza erguida) In this video Big Bird learns how movement can help focus a person's mind when it is overwhelmed with big feelings. Big Bird learns the tree pose to help himself feel steady and confident. You can follow along with the video and use this tree pose printable to model this self-calming technique.

Super Grover's Super Pose (también disponible en español: La pose de poder de Súper Grover) In this video Super Grover shows how holding his body in a confident manner and saying encouraging things to himself can help ease his worry and anxiety. Even Super Grover doesn't always feel super, but doing these self-care techniques helps him remind himself, "I am super!"

Big Bird's Comfy Cozy Nest In this video Big Bird is feeling lots of things all mixed together and he doesn't know what to do with them. He feels sad, angry, confused, and anxious. Big Bird learns a self-calming technique imagining a safe place in which he can feel calm and peaceful. Big Bird's Nest includes helpful conversation prompts and Let's Play Activity Book offers several ideas to help children explore their emotions as well as a storybook version of "Imagine a Safe Place with Big Bird" in both English and Spanish.

Count, Breath, Relax Learn a simple self-calming technique with the Count and Cookie Monster by slowly blowing out pretend birthday cake candles.

Care, Cope & Connect is a printable online guide to help adults comfort and support kids going through community stress. It includes ideas to help kids feel safe and secure, activity pages, and self-care tips for parents and caregivers. It is available in Korean and Arabic.


When children are afraid, it is common for them to fear being separated from their trusted adults. Three stories that are particularly good for talking about coping with separation anxiety are Owl Babies. Llama Llama Misses Mama, and The Kissing Hand. Just click on one of the book covers to watch the story in a video read aloud. I Am Peace a Book of Mindfulness and Bee Calm the Buzz on Yoga also might be helpful for practicing self-calming techniques.

You can also browse our e-book and audiobook collection for kids called Coping with Tragic Events to check out directly to your device at home. If you have never borrowed from our e-book platform for kids called Axis 360 before, information to get started can be found here.

OwlBabiesKissingHandI Am PeaceBee Calm the Buzz on YogaLlama Llama Misses Mama

Need help? Ask a Library staff member at any of our locations or call, text, or email Ask-a-Librarian. Our staff would be happy to help you find more books like these.

Picture Books to Help Children Cope

When young children are feeling scared, it can be extremely helpful to read a book together that helps talk to them about feeling afraid or anxious; or helps answer questions about difficult topics like death or tragic events children hear about on the news. Below are several sensitive and insightful children's stories that address separation anxiety, fear and grief. These stories can help children learn to recognize and name what those emotions are and offer reassurance as well as techniques for helping children (and you) cope.

When Sadness Is at your Door

Eland, Eva

This story gives sadness a shape and space to help children acknowledge the emotion, that isn't seen, but is felt. When sadness visit, a young child learn how to name it and embrace it for what it is while it is visiting.

Lubna and Pebble

Meddour, Wendy

Lubna's best friend is a pebble. Pebble always listens to her stories. Pebble always smiles when she feels scared. When Lubna meets a new friend who is also afraid, she realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does. A lovely story about how coping strategies can be shared, even between children.

The Rabbit Listened

Doerrfeld, Cori

Taylor feels frustration, anger, sadness when his block castle gets knocked over. Several friends come to visit, each with an idea for what to do to make Taylor feel better. Each idea is great prompt for a conversation about whether that idea would actually help or not. It is the rabbit, who just comes by to listen that brings the greatest amount of comfort.