On March 11, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck Japan, which triggered a catastrophic tsunami that leveled much of the northeastern part of the coast. The footage and news of the devastation has saturated television, Internet sites, newspapers and magazines, prompting children to ask questions about this tragedy. It is difficult to know how much to explain to children and how to help them decipher the cause and effect of such disasters. Japan's earthquake and tsunami are not an exception.
My children, during tragic news stories might ask questions like "Could this happen here? Why and how did this happen? How can we prevent it from happening here?" In their innocence, or hope of keeping the disaster at bay, they adamantly state " I am never going to Japan, Haiti, etc.." I am torn between telling them, everything will be okay, and the reality that as human beings we are not exempt from these happenings.
The first thing we can do is listen, just like any other conversation with our children. Once you have determined how much your child knows, you can clarify the information, images or misinformation they may have seen or heard.
The topic can be complicated, sometimes we don't know the answer and it is important to be honest. For some of the questions researching the information and providing kids with the answers is possible. For existential questions don't be afraid to be honest as well. Just provide them with understandable, simple answers.
Heather, a fellow mom said, "We have an opportunity to use the tragedy in Japan as a tool to teach our children about the world as a whole. It is a hard line to walk, making sure we meet our kids where they are in their emotional development and being able to quell their fears."
Making children feel safc and secure is imperative. Obviously we can assure our children that a tsunami in St. Louis is not a real possibility. But giving them an opportunity to express their fears is therapeutic, even non-verbally; let them draw, read books, etc. As we have seen on television and in our University City community people want to help. Finding ways for kids to be part of the solution makes them feel more in control and may relieve some tensions. For example,
One of the great things that is taught in my child's school is citizenship. They are citizens of their class, school and country, etc. As citizens, children have a responsibility to be part of solutions and improving their surroundings. The devastation in Japan is also an opportunity for us to teach our children to understand and embrace their global citizenship.
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