Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Talking to Your Kids About Natural Disasters

To help with the Oklahoma victims, the Vintage Pearl is donating 100% of the proceeds for the flag necklace above to the Red Cross.  This charming state flag is 48$ and you can order it here.

It seems like just the other day I was blogging about how to talk to your kids about neighborhood crime, the Boston bombings, then it was how to talk to your kids about school shootings and now it's about Natural Disasters.  Sigh.  The past few months have been super hard as a parent in this world and dealing with tragedies.

I looked and found a few good articles online.  Katie Couric posted an article about it here as well as Huffington Post here.

It also goes without saying to keep your child's age in consideration and limit the information you give if they are too young.

Tip #1 for me is to keep the TV off.   Children are being exposed to too much violence and tragedy on TV and when they see it, they imagine far worse than it really is (even when reality is bad!).  They say that young children often confuse facts with fantasy and may not realize that the same images are shown over and over again on television. They think that the disasters are happening over and over again.

Here are some basic tips I gathered from the sources above, (and mostly for a school aged child):
  1. Encourage ongoing dialogue. The more communication the better. One conversation is not enough. Children are better able to take in and cope with small amounts of information at a time.
  2. Use developmentally appropriate words and concepts that children can understand.
  3. Encourage children to ask questions. Make sure that you listen to the questions being asked and and concerns being expressed. Don't assume and please don't project your fears onto your children. Answer the questions that children ask. Keep it to that. Do not volunteer more information than asked because children may not be ready to handle that information. Unconsciously, they know what they can handle and when.
  4. Know the facts. Be able to explain what a natural disaster is as well as how and why they happen. Use simple, clear facts and avoid opinions.
  5. Normalize feelings - especially fear. It is important that a child not be left with distressing feelings. A child may demonstrate their distressing feelings by throwing temper tantrums, an inability to sleep or having meltdowns. Pay attention to unusual behavior and address behaviors head-on.
  6. Turn OFF the television. Watching the devastation over and over and over again only heightens a child's worry and fear. Research has shown that watching media coverage, especially repeated viewing, can create stress for children even when they are not directly exposed to disaster. Television viewing for young children needs to be limited. If they see some television that reports on disaster, it is best for parents to watch with their children in order to deal with their reactions and correct misinformation.
  7. Reassure children that they will be taken care of and that you will do everything that you can do to protect them. DO NOT tell them that "this will never happen to you" because as we know all too well, a natural disaster can happen anytime, anywhere.
  8. Use the conversation as an opportunity for learning. Talk about what you and your family would do in the event of a natural disaster. Make a plan. The reassurance will provide comfort.
  9. Encourage children to relax. Some options include: coloring, reading poetry, singing songs.
  10. Maintain a consistent routine because children equate a routine with stability and security.


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