Answering Difficult Questions with Children


Be there. It is a good idea to wait to see if children bring up questions or conversations. They may need your support and presence more than a conversation about what has happened.

Support may be needed over a longer period of time. Children may need time to think things through and come back to speak to you or may ask the same questions again.

Go at their pace. When they raise a question or concern, you might ask what they have heard, what they understand or are worried about. Remember that children’s understanding of events will depend on their age and their developmental maturity, they will not have the same understanding that we do as adults. They may use language they have heard others use rather than fully understanding what they are saying.

Anticipate. Children often don’t know, or can’t ask, for the support they need so watch out for unusual, or more challenging behaviour, which might indicate they are struggling and perhaps offer special times when they can talk to you if they wish.

Moving on. Children can move on more quickly than adults, particularly younger children. As adults we may remain ‘in a feeling’ or ‘thought’ longer than children. They may be very upset one moment and asking ‘what is for tea?’ the next; this is completely normal and appropriate to their individual stage of development.

Listen. It’s important to answer their questions in a way that reassures them and doesn’t cause them further anxiety, or expose them to information that they as children will find difficult to understand or is not appropriate for their level of understanding.

Be there. It’s important that children know that you are available for them to speak to and that there are staff in school who will listen to any concerns.

Keep things as normal as possible. Try to keep things as normal as possible. Keeping to your usual routine and doing normal activities as much as you can will help your child feel safer more quickly. You are your child’s best resource – you will create a sense of safety when they may feel other things are in chaos.

Provide times of fun. Difficult feelings can be exhausting. Let your child know it is still ok to laugh and have fun. This does not mean that they don’t care or aren’t affected by what has happened.

Believe in the ability to recover and grow. Your belief in their ability to recover and heal may be needed when their belief fails them. Help them to identify their strengths and build on their inner resources as well as identifying people around them who can offer support.