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When emergencies happen, these are the ways you can help the young people in your life cope. 

When war breaks out, a natural disaster strikes or distressing events unfold, the chaos and insecurity that follows can leave children and young people feeling scared and overwhelmed, even long after the event. 

Talking to the young people in your life about the events and their feelings is the first step on their journey to processing their changing world.  

UNICEF’s years of experience providing counselling and emotional support to children and their families impacted by disasters tells us that children and young people respond differently to adults. Whether your young person has been directly or indirectly affected, the below tools and strategies will help you navigate this time with patience, understanding and empathy. 

Quick link: Teacher resources
A girl impacted by climate change looking at the camera© UNICEF/UNI401054/Viet Hung

A guide to talking to children about natural disasters

The world is living through a climate crisis, and one of the impacts of this crisis is more frequent and intense natural disasters, such as bushfires, heatwaves, floods and cyclones. 

Here is your guide on how to talk to children and young people about natural disasters and climate anxiety. 

How to talk to children about all emergencies 

A UNICEF worker talking to a young girl.© UNICEF/UN0792084/Haddad

Focus on the child, not the distress

Start by asking your kids’ permission to talk about the issue. Follow their lead, and if they don’t want to discuss it, don’t push it. 

Some children may be eager to talk about their concerns, while others might find it difficult. Just remind your children that they can speak to you, their teachers and other trusted adults whenever they like. 

Drawing, stories and other activities may help to open up a discussion. Don’t dismiss or avoid their concerns. Be sure to acknowledge their feelings and assure them it’s natural to feel sad or scared about these things. 

A mother and child look at the setting sun at a camp for displaced people in Ethiopia. © UNICEF/UN0827358/Ayene

Be honest, explain the truth

Children have a right to truthful information about what is happening in the world, but adults are also responsible for keeping them safe from distress. Use age-appropriate language, be mindful of their reactions and be sensitive to their level of anxiety. 

Our child-friendly guide to global emergencies on UNICEF Youth provides fast facts about current emergencies. ABC’s Behind the News is also a fantastic resource for explaining big events happening in the world right now. They explain situations in the eyes of children, using safe images and language that is easy to understand. 

If you don’t know the answer to their questions, use it as an opportunity to explore the answers together. 

A UNICEF worker talking to a boy from Fiji after a natural disaster. © UNICEF/UN0400163/Stephen/Infinity Images

Offer reassurance

For parents, tell your children you love them and remind them that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to keep them safe. Plan to spend extra time with them as they get past the distress and anxiety. Children are resilient and hopeful. 

For teachers, make some time within your class to have a discussion. ABC’s Behind the News is great resource to help explain situations in the eyes of children, using safe images and language that is easy to understand. Follow up with any students separately who may be struggling, and flag it with the student’s carer.  

A group of Pakistan girls attend school inside a makeshift classroom after the floods devastated their communities. © UNICEF/UN0802725/Sohail

Help children get back to their normal routine

We know from our work on the ground that it is extremely important for children affected by disasters to get back to playing and learning so that they can regain a sense of normalcy and routine.  

In crisis spots around the world, UNICEF sets up child-friendly spaces where children have a place to feel safe, learn and play. Help your child regain a sense of normalcy by encouraging them to take part in activities they enjoy, like playing with friends, reading and drawing. 

A UNICEF worker helping a mother and their child fleeing from the war in Ukraine. © UNICEF/UN0599785/Nicodim

Show them all the good people trying to help

Children need to know about the acts of bravery, generosity and kindness from ordinary people trying to help families impacted by natural disasters.  

Sharing stories of volunteer first responders, community leaders and everyday Australians showing compassion can be comforting and reassuring. 

A mother with her two children after the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria. © UNICEF/UN0784068/Haddad

It is ok to seek professional help

If you feel your child could benefit from professional help, contact your local GP for a referral to a counsellor or psychologist who specialises in children and you people. For more immediate help, you can encourage your child to call Kids Helpline, which is great for all ages, or Headspace, which is ideal for teenagers and young people.   

A mother holding her child after the devastating earthquakes hit Syria. © UNICEF/UN0686857/Aldhaher

Take care of yourself

You’ll be better able to help your kids if you’re coping well. Children will pick up on your response to the news, so it helps them know you’re calm and in control. 

If you’re feeling anxious or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to other family, friends and trusted people in your community. If you want extra help, contact Beyond Blue or Lifeline. 

Make time, however small, to do things you enjoy and join your kids in doing something constructive to help the situation. 

A mother and her daughter from Palestine© UNICEF/UNI179600/El Baba

Create an emergency plan

Whether its bushfires, flooding or a storm, emergencies can strike at any time without notice, especially if you live or work in areas that are prone to these natural events. Whether at home or in the classroom, talking with children and getting them involved in creating an emergency plan can help them feel reassured and provides them with a sense of control in the face of the unknown. Learn more about how you can prepare for an emergency. 

Girls at school in Syria, a country the midst of conflict.© UNICEF/UN0603203/Deeb

What behaviour change should I look out for?

When an emergency strikes, some children and young people react immediately with changes in their behaviour. These changes may include acting out, becoming more attached, their sleeping patterns change, or the child becoming withdrawn and quiet. 

Some children may first show signs of difficulty at a later stage. Their needs will vary depending on their ages and how much they understand what they see.  

But having an open, supportive discussion with the children in your life can help them understand, cope, and contribute positively. These conversations aren’t easy but can be crucial to ensuring that children feel safe after a disaster. 

Ways your child can make a difference when an emergency happens. 

Talking to children and showing how they can help others can be empowering and vital to restoring confidence. Get together and brainstorm ideas about what small or big actions you or they can take. Together, your kids and their friends can raise money, support each other, make posters or any other creative ideas that spring to mind. 


Get involved with a local group or organisation which is active in an area you are passionate about. Helping where you can be a great way to make a difference.

Raise your voice

You can raise awareness of the emergency that is happening by talking to family and friends and sharing on social media.


You can help organisations like UNICEF be there during times of emergency by starting your own fundraising event at school or your sports club.

Resources for teachers