How to Break the Bad News

Find out about what it might take to break the bad news to somebody and tips on how to do it.

When you have bad news, it can be really hard to decide how and when to break it. It’s never the ‘right time’, sometimes you can be unsure of who you should tell. It’s important, however, not to keep things bottled up.

There are all kinds of bad news. You might have failed a test or lost something of importance to your parents or friends. You might have broken a vase or spilt tomato ketchup on the brand new carpet!

Each of us might come to a point where we have to tell somebody close to us some bad news, so what’s the easiest way to do so?


  • Cut right to the chase – don’t stall or ‘beat around the bush’, the quicker you tell someone something, the quicker they can deal with it and the better you’ll feel! 
  • Tell the whole truth – don’t keep the little things to yourself because you don’t think they’re important. Be frank and tell the person everything. You’re likely to feel a lot better after talking to someone about it.
  • Put yourself in their shoes – try to understand why they might be feeling angry, sad or worried, depending on what you’ve told them.
  • Be supportive – re-assure them that you understand their circumstances, how they might feel about it and that you will try to make things right.


  • Be patronising – It’s difficult for anyone to know what someone be thinking or feeling, so don’t tell them that you know exactly how they are feeling about what you’ve told them (even if you think you do!).
  • Distance yourself – you’ve just had the courage to break the bad news, don’t run away now! You have been brave and one of the hardest parts is over. 
  • Pretend you’re ‘fine’ – often after telling someone some bad news, people can pretend they’re ok and dealing with things a lot better than they actually are. If you need help, ask for it. That’s what your family and friends are there for! If you can't speak to friends or family you can call Childline on 0800 1111.

Check out more information on how to help others through difficult times.