Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Explain the Unthinkable to Your Kids: Natural Disasters

With the horrendous earthquakes and subsequent tsunami occurring in Japan this week, our children are seeing some pretty horrific images on the television and hearing discussions in the community and in our churches about how we can help the people of Japan. How do you explain such a terrible situation to your young children?

It is important to take into account how old your child is and their developmental stage, because every age is going to have differing levels of comprehension. Even adults struggle with understanding these unthinkable disasters, so can you imagine how a child grapples with such a tragedy? It is important to explain an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, and any other type of natural disaster in a manner in which children can understand. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

- Answer your child’s questions about the natural disaster, but don’t overload them. Too much information will just overwhelm them.

- Try to keep your emotions in check when discussing world disasters with your kids. If you cry or appear upset or angry, this will certainly spill over into how your child views the situation, thus making them feel even unsafe or insecure.

- Talk about what you can do as a family to help the people of the torn or ravaged nation. This is an amazing opportunity to teach your child about charity and the importance of helping others in need. Volunteer together as a family or do something at home to help the people who need it.

- Don’t keep the television on all the time when the news is covering a disaster 24-7. While, as adults, we can get enthralled in gathering information and learning as much as we can about the disasters as it is occurring, this is not healthy for your children. The images and sound bites used on the news are often too graphic and hard for kids to understand.

- Reassure your children they are not in danger and make them feel safe. Yes, the world can be a dangerous and unsafe place, but it is important to make our children feel loved and secure. Talk to your children about all the things your family does to keep yourselves safe from danger and prepared in case of emergency. Although no one knows what will unfold in the future, it is important to make your child feel safe and secure today.

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