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How to Talk to Your Children about Natural Disasters


Unless you live in a cave or in solitary confinement, you have heard about the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week. The photographs and videos of the destruction are enough to give you nightmares. If this natural disaster has upset you, there’s no doubt that they’ve made your children nervous . . . scared, even.

It’s not just the worldwide natural disasters – like Haiti last year, and Japan this year – that can freak our kids out. In the United States, we experience tornados, floods, and hurricanes every year. The destruction is printed in our newspapers, and they are broadcast on TV, YouTube, and online.

While it would be great if we could completely shield our children from the upsetting photographs and images, this isn’t realistic. We live in a technology-driven world.

So how do you talk to your children about natural disasters? How can you explain that natural disasters – tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis – and other scary events happen, while helping your children feel safe?

Talk About the Natural Disaster, but Keep it Simple. When you have a young child, you don’t need to go into a lot of detail. Keep your description simple. Reassure your children that it isn’t happening to them and that they’re safe.

Discuss Your Emergency Plans. To help your children feel better, you may want to discuss your own emergency plan in the event a natural disaster happens in your town. For example, if you live in an area where tornados occur, talk about where the family will go (basement, hall bathroom, storm cellar, etc.) in the event there’s a tornado warning.

Allow Your Children to Express their Feelings. Don’t automatically say, “Don’t be worried or sad.” Allow your children to express their feelings. You should respond to their fears and worries with reassuring statements. For example, “I know you’re scared that we could have an tsunami. But we don’t live near water, so it’s not possible for that to happen here.”

Pay Attention to Your Own Reaction to the Event. Young children react to natural disasters in different ways. If your preschooler hasn’t seen the images on TV, or he hasn’t been directly affected by the event, it’s possible he will have no reaction to what’s happened. However, if your child has noticed that you’re upset by whatever has happened, he is more likely to react negatively.

When talking to your children about the natural disaster, it’s important that you pay attention to your posture and facial expression. Try to keep your emotions in check. If you act like everything is OK, chances are your child will feel safe.

Limit Exposure to Repeated Images and Video. This isn’t always possible, but if you can, you will want to keep your child away from the distressing photographs and videos. Don’t watch newscasts when your young child is with you. Repetitive images and videos might stress out your children and confuse him into thinking the same natural disaster has occurred again.

Use the Natural Disaster to Teach a Lesson. Don’t be afraid to turn a natural disaster, or another scary event, into a teaching moment. If people died, like in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, your child may ask you, “What happens after people die?” Whatever your religious beliefs, this is the right moment to discuss your beliefs about God.

You could also use the natural disaster to talk to your children about kindness and helping others. But don’t just talk – walk the walk. Donate to a relief organization and allow your children to put the stamp on the envelope and mail it.

What Tips Do You Have?

What about you? How have you discussed the Japanese tragedy to your children? What has worked for your children, and what hasn’t?

Discuss below in the comments!

About the author: 7sharov-spb.ru is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on , and .

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Tanja March 19, 2011, 4:11 am

    This is so true. My 4-year-old saw too much earthquake and tsunami news at my in-laws house, and the next morning he made a Lego rendition of a tsunami picture that was eerie because it was so accurate. I don’t understand it when people think this doesn’t affect their kids.
    Tanja

  • March 17, 2011, 4:31 pm

    Great advice! Just found your blog and am following! Would love a follow back at Thanks!

  • Oak Lawn Lady March 17, 2011, 11:50 am

    A very informative blog, gives one lots to think about for sure. My children are all grown, but now we have grandchilden who are seeing and hearing all this in a way my own never could. At this point I can only hope we’ve raised our children to give the best advise to their own children.
    I’m new to blogging and a new follower.
    Please check out my own site at:

    Kathy(Oak Lawn Lady) at Oak Lawn Images

  • ♥cyn♥ March 17, 2011, 2:52 am

    Hiya! Newest follower from the Fab Friends Thursday Blog Hop– please stop by and say hello! Would love if ya followed back!
    ♥cyn♥

  • Scather March 16, 2011, 11:23 pm

    A very timely article.
    I have just joined up as a follower from the Fab Friends Thursday Blog Hop, would love a follow back – scathingweekly.blogspot.com ^_^

  • Susannahaziz March 16, 2011, 6:02 pm

    BTW if you’d like–you can read my little summary about talking to my 4 year old about this topic on my blog.

  • March 16, 2011, 8:07 pm

    Awesome tips! My two are a little to young still to be affected by it. Plus we don’t have cable so their exposure is limited.

    Following from Mom Bloggers Club!

  • Susannahaziz March 16, 2011, 6:04 pm

    ahackgrowsinbrooklyn.blogspot.com

    • DP March 16, 2011, 7:29 pm

      Cool. I’m hopping over to read it right now 🙂

  • Susannahaziz March 16, 2011, 5:58 pm

    Just discussed this topic with my 4 year old. Unfortunately he caught a glimpse of some images on the news–but I explained to him the best way i knew how–This parent stuff is hard!! Thanks for the tips!!

  • Burundanguitas March 15, 2011, 7:59 pm

    Hi sweetie, tks a lot for the post. Its totally true what you said at all.
    I live in Panama, here we were one of the country in “Tsunami Alert” tks god nothing happens at the end.
    Me & my hubbie, didnt know how to talk to our lil girl (she is 4) of what was going on, because we live near to the beach at the Pacific side, sooo we had to be ALERT!
    At the end we decide to keep it simple and our kid is inform but just a little of info, always telling her she is safe with us.
    Again, tks for yr lovely blog. I try to come anv visit twice a week. come and visit me sometime at

    rgds, dalysE

    • DP March 16, 2011, 7:29 pm

      You have such a cute blog. I wish I could read Spanish!

  • Angelica March 15, 2011, 3:45 pm

    Thank you for this post! It will help when my son asks questions about the disaster. Sometimes you just don’t know how to talk about it without showing too much emotion.

    • DP March 15, 2011, 3:49 pm

      Good luck! I hope it does well!

  • Stanley Kendyl March 15, 2011, 12:24 am

    Hey it me kendyl! beautiful blog and advice you have here! follow me on

  • Carla Mrs. No-No Knows March 14, 2011, 5:54 pm

    Here from Bloggy Moms 🙂
    Come by and visit when you have time!!
    Carla aka Mrs. NoNo
    Carla at Mrs. NoNo Knows

  • Literallyinspired March 14, 2011, 8:12 pm

    Great ideas! Following through Bloggy Moms!

    Ginger

  • Marcy March 14, 2011, 5:40 pm

    Great ideas!

  • March 14, 2011, 12:46 pm

    Just started following your blog, great post. Thanks for sharing!

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