Discussing Emergencies with Young Children in a Non-Threatening Way

It’s critical that young children be prepared for emergencies.


How to Talk to Children About Emergencies

Adults might avoid talking about emergency situations with children because it could instill fear or cause anxiety to their children. 

Children’s abilities to cope with stressful or frightening situations improve when they know more about what is happening and feel that they are able to help protect those closest to them. There are non-threatening ways to approach emergency topics while helping children feel empowered.

  • Define what an emergency is – explain that emergencies generally require police, firefighter, or medical assistance. Give them examples of an emergency, such as a house fire or an unresponsive adult.
  • Teach your child to call 911 in the event of an emergency. Practice on a toy phone, an unplugged landline, or your cell phone. Explain to your child that the person on the phone will ask “Where are you calling from?” and “What is your emergency?” Role play with your child to go over examples of emergency situations.
  • Invite your children to help you change batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Consider intentionally setting them off in front of your child – prepare them beforehand – so they know what the alarms sound like. This can help reduce anxiety.
  • Practice escape plans from each room in your home.
  • Focus on emergencies your family is more likely to encounter, such as a specific type of natural disaster or medical event. 
  • Use songs to help your child remember your phone number or practice writing it. 

While partaking in the activities above, consistently explain to your child that they are safe and protected. Let them know that these things probably won’t happen but it’s good to have a plan in place just in case. 


Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

Request free printed materials from our Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series.


Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
Line separator