Probably one of the more difficult jobs as a parent is having a talk with their children about tragedies such as the earthquake in Haiti. Although all parents wish they could shelter their children from these tragedies, they will undoubtedly witness and hear about the earthquake’s devastation. Many children may even see images of the extraordinary human suffering. While it’s up to every parent to regulate what their children see on the news, it’s also helpful to be prepared to discuss any questions their children may have.
Children manifest their concerns and fears in their own ways and not all children will have the ability to describe or put into words what they may feel about this tragedy. Here are some helpful tips from Sesame Workshop to hopefully make this tough job a little easier:
1.) Encourage your child to ask questions and talk about their feelings – When your children ask you questions, it helps give you an idea of what they already know. If your children are in school, they probably have already had some discussion in school – ask them what they discussed. It’s also okay to respond with “I don’t know” to a question.
2.) Give the facts – Try and use simple language to explain what happened in Haiti. You can even explain what actually happens during an earthquake. Also explain that earthquakes are scary for everyone but adults do their best to protect children and keep them safe.
3.) Respect your child’s fears and concerns – Your children may express worry or fear that an earthquake may happen to them. Let them know it’s okay to be afraid and concerned.
4.) Offer comfort – Reassure your children that they are safe with you. Do your best to remain calm as well when you witness some of the news about Haiti. It’s easy to forget that adults are affected by these tragedies as well.
5.) Monitor television, internet and radio use – Try to avoid having your children view repeated images of these events in Haiti. Younger children may fear that these images are repeated and that a disaster is reoccurring.
6.) Remember that children may express their feelings through actions – Be on the watch for any behavior changes in your children. Some children may be unusually timid and quiet, show an increase in hyperactivity, have bad dreams or may be increasingly clingy.
7.) Talk as a family about how you can help – Your children may likely show a real concern about the people of Haiti – especially the children. Wanting to help is a healthy response by your children and teaches them empathy. Sit down as a family and think about making a donation or organizing a fundraiser in your church or school. Below are links to organizations who have performed long-standing and vital work in Haiti (remember that accessing these links with your children may expose them to some images of people suffering from the aftermath of the earthquake).
Do you have any additional thoughts or comments? How do you discuss the news with your children? For more information about how to talk with children about the natural disasters, war and other news please visit PBS.org