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Supporting Families: Young Children and Gun Violence

sad child looks over parent shoulder

Mass shootings and everyday gun violence involving young children is heartbreaking and all too common. We share the following resources to help parents and professionals meet the unique needs of infants and young children and address the effects of trauma in early childhood.

Family and community violence, natural disasters, and traumatic life events touch the lives of even the youngest children. Even when families are not directly involved, they can be affected through media coverage of frightening images and feel a heightened sense of vulnerability and stress.

Caregivers and early childhood professionals play a vital role in helping restore and maintain emotional safety, particularly after trauma. These resources can help guide parents and professionals as they cope with these events themselves, and serve as a buffer for young children.

Featured Book

Child psychologist and ZERO TO THREE Board Member, Dr. Chandra Gosh Ippen, published Once I Was Very, Very Scared to help children and grown-ups (caregivers, teachers, and early childhood professionals) understand how stress can affect children and ways to help them.

Recommended on NPR by Dr. Melissa Brymer of UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, she cites how animals throughout the book offer the opportunity for kids to point to different feelings they may have and each animal’s different way of coping with their feelings.

Free PDF downloads of the book and related resources such as finger puppets and coloring sheets are available in both English and Spanish.

Find more recommended books for families facing tough times.


A Big Impact on Little Kids: Understanding How Traumatic Experiences Affect Very Young Children

Young children are complex human beings who react to situations in different ways depending on their age, stage of development, and temperament. Your sensitive response can help your child cope during a difficult time.


Little Listeners in an Uncertain World

Tips for understanding what young children are thinking and feeling during times of crisis, and suggestions for how to help them cope during a difficult time.


Helping your Toddler Cope with Grief and Death

As hard and painful as it can be to answer questions about death, it’s an important way that toddlers develops an understanding of what has happened.


Shelter from the Storm: Resources for Early Care and Education Professionals

This comprehensive guide provides detailed resources for helping both adults and children cope with disasters. From understanding physical responses to trauma to responding to a child’s challenging behavior as a result of trauma, these practical tips can help children feel safe and secure. Available in both English and Spanish.


Mindfulness in Early Childhood

For both adults and children, practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress, bolster psychological functioning and assist in a return to wellness following adversity.


Responding To Violence, Disaster and Trauma | Journal Vol34 No2

Early life experiences impact later development and it is urgent to address the needs of very young children and their families who are suffering due to violence, disaster, or trauma. Creating effective systems of support requires comprehensive and accessible approaches to identification and treatment, and public policies that help children and families and protect society.


Partner Resources

What to Say if a Kid Asks, ‚ÄúWhat Does It Feel Like to Die?‚ÄĚ and Other Questions About Mass¬†Shootings

Psychologist and ZERO TO THREE Board Member¬†Dr. Chandra Ghosh Ippen¬†explains how children may process death differently, and why it‚Äôs important to think of yourself as a ‚Äúcatcher‚ÄĚ in difficult conversations.

Tips for How to Talk to Children About School Shootings

Save the Children’s emergency response experts offer tips to help you talk to children about school shootings.

Community & Gun Violence

Sesame Street in Communities provides a variety of tools for children and families directly affected by violence in their own neighborhoods.

Crisis and Disaster Resources

Children and families count on caregivers to keep children safe when the unexpected happens. Child Care Aware of America has resources to help adults respond when emergencies arise.

Coping After Mass Violence and Assisting Parents/Caregivers in Coping with Collective Traumas

These National Child Trauma Stress Network fact sheets offer strategies for parents and caregivers in coping with trauma, provides insight into common reactions children and families may be experiencing after a mass violence event, and outlines what they can do to take care of themselves.

Helping Children and Families Cope After a Disaster

This booklet by Dr. Joy D. Osofsky, PhD and Howard J. Osofsky, PhD supports parents and children in understanding reactions to trauma and healing from traumatic events.

How to Talk to Your Children About Conflict and War

Children always look to their parents and caregivers for a sense of safety and security ‚ÄĒ even more so in times of crisis.¬†UNICEF¬†provides eight tips to support and comfort¬†children.


Related Resources


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