Talking To Your Child About Natural Disasters
1. Explore your child’s thoughts. If they ask a question inquire further. Find out what they know and how they feel about it. Don’t assume and remember children have great imaginations.
2. Validate their feelings. For example, “That is a scary thought.” This will encourage your child to talk to you in the future about their feelings and let them know it’s okay to have these feelings. Statements like “don’t feel scared” do not stop a child from having fears – that is about you not them.
3. Remind your child you, their family and friends, and teachers work hard to keep them safe. Discuss your family’s safety plans should a natural disaster occur. Show your child you are prepared. Remember to speak calmly. For example, “Parents and schools have plans to keep kids safe.”
4. If appropriate get concrete with your information. For example, “Mom has lived here for 30 years which is 10950 days and we have never had an earthquake in all those days.” If you have experienced a natural disaster such as a hurricane remind your child of the number of days a hurricane did not occur. Additionally, and importantly, count all of the people your child knows that had experienced the disaster and are okay and safe.
5. Make explanations simple.
6. Offer a way for your child to help such as gathering clothes or food to send to those in need – or offer a volunteer experience close to home where your child can feel helpful. This gives them a sense of control. Volunteering helps reduce anxiety as well.
7. If your family was significantly affected by a natural disaster it is helpful to seek additional support through a therapist or school counselor for your child and your family.