The United States has experienced some horrific situations in the last few weeks. Unprecedented natural disasters in California (fires), Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico (hurricane damage), and the most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Even though it is difficult to compare natural disasters with intentional disasters, the extraordinary recovery efforts bring the resilient and caring side of humanity into focus. Ordinary people, alongside selfless recovery personnel, are lining up to give water and other supplies to aid distraught survivors of the natural disasters. They are also queuing up to give a part of themselves, literally, as they donate their blood to help the victims of the senseless shooting.
Talking to kids about disasters
Talking to kids about these disheartening circumstances can be difficult. It is not easy to know what to say.
For the very young, don’t say anything at all. They are not equipped to understand what is happening in other parts of the world. They just want to know their world is safe.
For late elementary to early middle school kids, gauge what they know and what they understand. Try to avoid watching the news incessantly as some people (okay, me) tend to do when unreal events unfold. Be sure to ask them how they feel about what they know. Likely, discussions about these disasters are bubbling within the walls of the school between students and/or teachers. Help your children sort through the stories they are hearing.
For older kids, watch the news together and talk about how they are feeling. Help them sort through those confusing emotions.
- Discuss personal safety to help them deal with their feelings of fear (what would you do in that situation?).
- Talk about recovery efforts to help them deal with their feelings of hopelessness (what kind and good behaviors are people displaying to assist others?).
- Explore ways you as a family can assist the victims of these circumstances to help alleviate their feelings of helplessness (donate to a reputable charity?).
Finding optimism in a scary world.
It is a scary world out there, no one can deny it. However, there is a lot of hope to be found in the aftermath. As parents, we need to find that optimism to help reassure our young people that through trials comes triumph. If young people can learn this when they are young, they are better prepared to persevere when things get tough in adulthood.
To read more, the article Explaining News to Our Kids by Caroline Knorr is helpful.