Teach Children How to Face a Disaster Without Scaring Them

Tips for teaching your child about preparedness

Do you know how to teach children how to face a disaster without scaring them? Just like their parents, children are often scared of the unknown or unfamiliar.  Because of their fear, it’s essential that you take the time to explain the dangers that they may encounter. 

If you do, your children will become more familiar with their vulnerabilities.  This increased familiarity will help them to be less afraid.  As they grow less fearful, they will also become safer, more secure, and better prepared.

Avoid Scare Words and Tactics

When discussing how to face a disaster with your children, it is best to avoid scare words and tactics.  Scare words and tactics may cause anxiety and fear, which take away from the learning experience.  For example, avoid telling your child, “You’ll die if…” 

Also, since child abduction is often a concern, try to avoid phrases such as “The man will get you…”  Instead, try to think about the intent of what you are saying.  If it’s to make a scary point to convince your child not to do something, it may be better left unsaid.  Remember, the goal is to prepare children for something bad without scaring them.

If you are teaching a child how to face a disaster of a different type, like a storm, a power outage, or an earthquake, giving them plenty of information ahead of time will help them to understand what might happen. Knowing this in advance makes it less frightening because then they know what to expect.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Instead of using scare words and tactics, focus on using positive reinforcement.  You can achieve positive reinforcement by using simple terms to explain what makes a particular situation unsafe.  When describing why they shouldn’t speak to strangers, tell them it’s because mommy doesn’t know the person.  Doing so can establish a real, practical, but non-scary reason in your child’s mind for not speaking with strangers.

Create a Plan of How to Face a Disaster

Once your child understands the lesson you are teaching, discuss what to do if he or she finds himself or herself in that situation. 

For example, the National Crime Prevention Council suggests teaching children “No, Go, Yell, Tell” (NGYT).  NGYT is a course of action for children to follow when a stranger approaches.  If approached, they should say “No,” then “Go” (run away), “Yell” as loud as possible, and lastly, “Tell” an adult. 

It can also be important to teach your kids to shout, “That’s not my Mom (or Dad),” so that bystanders don’t just think they’re throwing a temper tantrum and are more apt to help.

When planning for other types of emergencies, give them instructions such as, “Get under the table” for an earthquake or “Go down to the basement” for a tornado. Children are empowered when they know what to do.

Act It All Out

After teaching your children what to do, role-playing the situation with them reinforces everything.  By acting out the lesson, you are strengthening it, but you are also doing it in a fun and not scary way. 

So, play the part of the stranger and have your child act out the NGYT process.  Have him or her act it out with another adult playing the same role, so it adds to the overall fun.  Make it more fun by having everyone overemphasize their actions.  Doing so will help your child retain the information and preparing for when a stranger approaches.

You Set the Example of How to Face a Disaster

An important point to remember is that you are the model for your child.  Therefore, if you regularly speak with strangers, your kids will pick up on this and may think it is okay.  However, if you do have to talk with a stranger, you should explain why it is okay in that particular situation. 

Maybe it is okay because the stranger is also a mommy in the shopping mall with her children.  Perhaps it’s okay because you and your child were together rather than alone when the conversation occurred.  Maybe the stranger is a uniformed police officer or firefighter, who you may teach are good people.

Other simple habits like always fastening your seatbelt in the car, always locking the door to the house, etc., can reinforce good habits in your children.

You can also provide an example of handling a crisis calmly and efficiently. Doing this shows your children a better way of how to face a disaster than panicking.

Impress Your Family’s Safety and Security Values

Lastly, it is essential to impress your family’s safety and security values and rules upon your child.  As you do, make the most of non-scary, teachable moments to reinforce your lessons and help them learn to face a disaster. 

Take advantage of the everyday opportunities to explain and teach things to your children.  Doing so will help your child’s sense of security, safety, and preparedness evolve as he or she grows.  It will also provide them the foundation they need, when they’re older, to pass on your safety rules to their children.

The Bottom Line on Teaching Your Children How to Face a Disaster

In the end, learning how to prepare children how to face a disaster without scaring them isn’t hard.  It just takes thought, time, and dedication.  Think about ways to prevent your lesson from being scary.  Once you’ve thought it through, take the time to explain the issue. 

Then, reinforce your experience by acting out the scene with your child in a fun way.  Lastly, stay dedicated to finding new ways to enhance lessons that will lead to a safe, secure, and prepared life.  When you do, you will help prepare children for something bad without scaring them.


Stay safe,

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Brian Duff

Brian Duff

Brian Duff is a former firefighter-paramedic, Army Ranger, diplomatic protection specialist, and international security director. Brian’s preparedness experiences range from his time as a paramedic in Southern California and his service with the 75th Ranger Regiment to spending over a decade overseas, eventually managing the U.S. Embassy security forces in Baghdad, Iraq. Upon returning to the U.S., he directed a $1.25 billion government security program. As a lifelong preparedness advocate, PTSD survivor, author, and founder and host of the Mind4Survival website and podcast, Brian draws on his lifetime of near misses, close calls, and lucky mistakes to advance his crusade for empowering people to become more safe, confident, and self-reliant.


  1. David on July 28, 2018 at 1:12 am

    Thanks for the great podcast. I’ve been listening to it for about two months now, and I’ve almost caught up on all the episodes. I appreciate your calm, serious, balanced take on preparedness. I don’t ever feel like I need to make a tin foil hat when I’m listening. 🙂 I’ve even bought a book or two and listened to guests you have on, and they are good, but in their material some times it is too tin foil hat for me, but you always do a great job of bringing balance and realism to your show. I don’t mean to insult them, and I’m grateful for their perspective. Thanks for all you do. Thanks for all your hard work now in the show and for the country and your serve in the military/ambulance.

    • Brian Duff on August 2, 2018 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks, David. I appreciate your feedback!

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