Talking to kids about disaster

Kids watching TV

Like all of you, Haiti has weighed heavily on my heart me these past few days. I don’t have any brilliant insight to provide — I’m struggling with all the same emotions: extreme sadness, desire to help, frustration that aid is slow to get there…

But this morning I stopped to think about the news and images I’ve seen over the past few days, and the emotional toll they’ve taken on me. And I started wondering if I’ve done all that I could — or should — to engage or prepare my kids for what they might see in the coming days and weeks.

My boys are 4 and 1. To date, we’ve just tried to shield them from the story. I think that’s the obvious and correct approach for a 1 year old. But I wonder if there isn’t more I should do with my 4 year old? I obviously would never share the graphic details or expose him to the images… if the impact of those images on my adult brain is a guide, his 4 year-old head might just melt. But I wondered if I should mention the disaster — and our collective response to it — to prepare him for things he sees or hears or senses.

PBS has published what I found to be a very helpful age-specific guide for talking with your children about the news. You can find it here.

Based on their recommendations, I plan to have a VERY general conversation around the issue.  To ask him if he’s heard of Haiti.  To probe about whether he’s seen or heard anything from his friends or teachers.  And to share some broad facts with him:  there was an earthquake, lots of people are hurt, some have died, we are trying to help with our money and prayers, you are safe.

I’d be interested to hear how or whether you are talking to your own children or grandchildren about Haiti and suffering in general.

P.S.  If you’re wondering what you can do to help the relief effort, here are a few ideas.

photo by MikeWebkist

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