Helping Kids Cope with News of Disaster
Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, landslides, massive wildfires, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions: these and other natural disasters are making the news with increasing frequency. How can you help your kids cope with news of such disasters?
- 1. Remain calm. Acknowledge your own feelings of grief or concern, but do not project that you are feeling panicked or upset. Your kids’ reactions will, in large part, mirror your own.
- 2. Don’t negate any feelings your kids have. If your kids are experiencing anxiety, don’t tell them that they shouldn’t feel anxiety: they have a right to feel however they feel. However, you can ask them what (specifically) is causing their anxiety, and you can address those specific concerns. For example, if your son says he is anxious about the tsunami hurting him, his family, and his friends, you can assure him that he, along with his family and friends, are not in the path of the tsunami. You can then explain where the tsunami is expected to hit.
- 3. Explain, in an age-appropriate manner, the nature of what has happened and what will likely happen next. If you don’t know, research the matter. This is a teaching moment. Help your kids understand tectonic plates, the earth’s mantle, air currents, etc. (Note: use terms that are age-appropriate.) Also, make sure to let your kids know if/how the disaster may affect them and those they know and love. For example, will the storm hit your town? Will it affect the town where Grandma lives?
- 4. Explain, in an age-appropriate manner, the aid that has come/will come from various governments and non-profit organizations. It is essential for kids to know that, when emergencies strike, humans and the organizations they form will come to the aid of those in need. Kids must have hope and faith in their fellow human beings.
- 5. Explain, in an age-appropriate manner, what governments and non-profit organizations are doing to prevent a recurrence of the natural disaster or to lessen the impact of subsequent natural disasters. For example, are dams to be built? Again, this speaks to the need to reaffirm hope and faith.
- 6. Explain, in an age-appropriate manner, the psychology and sociology of what has happened. If you don’t know, research the matter. This helps kids develop a basic understanding of human nature; it also fosters empathy.
- 7. Explain, in a manner that is age-appropriate and consistent with your family’s religion, the faith-based elements (if any) of what has happened. If prayer is a part of your faith, pray for those affected by the disaster, their friends and family, and their country.
- 8. Encourage your kids to ask questions about what has happened, what will happen, and why. Kids need to feel comfortable speaking aloud the questions that may be haunting them.
- 9. Monitor your kids’ non-verbal communication. If your kids act unusually withdrawn, clingy, or fearful, you should follow-up with your kids. Ask them how they are feeling. If they are not forthcoming about their feelings, discuss how you perceive their actions (i.e., withdrawn, clingy, fearful, etc.). Tell your kids that you love them and are ready to discuss their feelings whenever they would like to share them with you.
- 10. Monitor your kids’ access to media. For example, if images of disaster victims is too difficult for your kids to view, then don’t watch the news in front of your kids.
- 11. Seek constructive activity. Can your kids donate a box of their outgrown clothing to a non-profit organization that will send that clothing to those in need in the disaster-struck area? Can your family host a lemonade stand to raise funds for the disaster-affected area? Often, people (kids and adults alike) can more easily reconcile themselves to a natural disaster if they feel that they can participate in constructive activity to make things better.
By following these steps, parents can help their kids cope with news of natural disasters. For more useful tips, continue to visit Nannies4hire.com.