Tips for Talking to Kids About Wildfires


Children are not immune to the anxiety that adults may face when a wildfire hits close to home. The Children’s Hospital of Colorado created tips for parents and caregivers to keep in mind when talking to children about wildfires and other natural disasters.


Be Present

  • Be present by increasing your availability to your child, both physically and emotionally. Provide a time and space to talk to your child about their feelings.
  • Be open to children’s fears and worries about wildfires, especially if a fire is close to home or they know someone impacted by the event.
  • Validate their emotions and avoid jumping to problem-solving or minimizing the situation. It’s OK to calmly share what you are feeling, too, using words appropriate for your child’s age.
Child with teddy bear

Maintain Normalcy

  • Keep things as normal as possible to help them feel safe. Routines are important and provide comfort.

Set Limits

  • Set limits on access to news and social media. Consuming ongoing tragic stories can be hard on anyone.
  • Be intentional about the quantity and quality of media coverage your family consumes during an event like a wildfire. Young children may not be able to process the events and require a parent to explain and answer questions. Parents of pre-teens and tees should set healthy boundaries for how much coverage they watch, including social media.

Provide Reassurance

  • The message should be “safety first.” Parents can say, “We’re going to stay safe. We can get another house; we can’t get another you.”
  • Explain the roles of first responders and emergency agencies to help families if disaster strikes.
  • Try to answer their questions about how wildfires can happen and how firefighters are prepared to help when they do.
  • Discuss insurance and how paying a little bit at a time helps your family ensure that things can be replaced if they are damaged or destroyed.
  • Talk to your children about why it’s important to prepare and how communities come together to help each other in times of crisis.

Stay Calm and Think Ahead

  • Breathe deeply from the diaphragm in adrenaline-filled moments.
  • Imagine that you received the call to evacuate now or in the future: What would you take? Many things can be replaced.
  • Make a list of the things you can’t replace and know where they are if you need to grab them quickly.
  • An event like a wildfire is a good reminder to make a plan and build a kit for your family in case of an emergency or disaster.

Let Kids Help and Accept Help

  • Provide “jobs” to help keep thoughts from imposing fear and worry. This job could be to update others on the status of the weather, to have a volunteer role in the shelter or to plan a family activity when things calm down.
  • If your family experiences a loss, share with your children how other people’s kindness will help you through hard times, and that things will get better.
  • In dealing with loss and grief, it is important to let children ask questions and to acknowledge their questions and validate their emotions. Be careful not to underestimate the loss that children may be experiencing.

For even more tips, conversation starters and examples, learn age-appropriate ways to help children cope with upsetting events in the news and how to help children after trauma.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has resources specific to helping children after trauma. They outline common reactions kids have to having a home damaged or destroyed and how parents can help them during the process of rebuilding or moving on. Download their Parent Guide for Helping Children Impacted by Wildfires (.pdf).