In the age of instant information it is imperative that we explain disasters to our children. They need to understand that the world in their own time.
Here are a few steps to help you explain natural disasters to your child.
1-Take into account your child’s age and developmental stage. While a toddler may only need to have images explained, kindergarten children may have lots of other questions.
2-Faced with startling images and sound bites, young children need to enjoy what is stable in their environment? Answer your child’s questions and concerns. Let your child take the lead in the conversation and don’t try to overload him or her with details that may be too complicated; this can increase anxiety. Research together to find answers.
3-The goal of any discussion needs to be informational and helpful to the child. The earthquake in Japan is a perfect example to explain plates in the earth. Children begin Earth Science at 6 years old. They are beginning to understand the basics in the world. You can explain why an earthquake occurs.
4- Try to keep your emotions stable as you talk with your child. You may have some strong feelings about the disaster and/or the way the relief effort is going. But remember, parental anxiety and frustration is contagious and not helpful to children. You can take the moment to say a special prayer.
5-Talk about what is happening in the aftermath of the events. This is a great moment to teach charity. Maybe they can donate their allowance or cell phone minutes. You can research what to do by reading How You Can Help Japan’s Earthquake Victims
6- Explain or possibly volunteer time in a small way. There are relief efforts that specialize in educating children and teaching them how to react and respond in times of trouble.
7- Take them out of the house and enjoy being out. Allowing a child to enjoy their time and be distracted is blessing in disguise. You can also enjoy a change of scenery. Now is the perfect time to go visit your cousin’s house
8- Use the time to turn off the television. We often forget just how enthralled we can become with watching the images on the screen. A friend of mine just explained earlier this week that she enjoyed spending time with the children with the television off.
Make sure that all information you give is age-appropriate, handled gently, and be explained in terms children will understand. After talking about these violent events, parents should immediately make sure their children feel safe by reassuring them that they’re not in danger.