talking to kids about the earthquake and tsunami in japan
Because we read the newspaper each day at breakfast, and because Maddy and Owen are becoming much more literate as their reading skills grow, we’ve had to handle last week’s events in Japan a little differently than we did the earthquake in Haiti last year.
I, at one time, could easily skim over headlines, but now–now that Maddy reads headlines herself–the horror from what she’s read in the last few days has been a lot for her to handle. Luckily, I put today’s front page aside before Maddy came downstairs; these are images she is too young to carry.
So I’ve been more careful–much more careful–about what I leave on the table because I know there is information that my kids now, 7, 5, and almost 4 years, should know and will are able to handle emotionally. I just need to sift through it first. Today we used the Kids Post’s definitions of earthquake and tsunami as a starting point; then I fielded their questions as best I could, and from there we talked about what we can do to help. I’ll share what we decided soon.
Here’s a clip from what I posted in response to the earthquake in Haiti; I definitely revisited it myself just days ago, and hopefully it will be helpful to others
Here’s the skinny on what I learned about talking with your children about difficult events, thanks to PBS Parents. . .
Talking with Kids About News, Age by Age:
- Babies and Toddlers (0-2)– According to the site, “babies and toddlers should not be exposed to disturbing news.” And because of the fear little ones feel from loud noises, gun shots, and scenes sometimes found on the news, they suggest that parents “don’t subject them to news on tv.” Okay. Easy enough.
- Preschoolers (3-5)– Children this age often mix up reality and fantasy and think that what’s happening on tv could be happening right there in their house. Parents should “shield preschoolers from news coverage of violent events whenever possible” and “avoid repeated viewings of the same event.” Makes total sense.
They say that “it is not necessary to discuss violent events on the news, unless you know your child has been exposed to them.” News “connected your preschooler’s life” is worth spending time talking about, though, like election news, weather, or something directly related to their day-to-day. Yes. I agree, agree, agree.
Asking preschoolers, “What do you know about that?” when they ask about an event and then clearing up misconceptions is the best idea. Diane Levine, PhD, suggests that parents don’t “over explain in ways that are not age-appropriate” but that they “clear up the confusion.”
Parents should explain that children are safe and do a lot of snuggling, loving, and listening to their children. Especially if these guys have had a hint of scary news, they’ll need some extra love.
- School Age (6-8): This is a time for “limited media exposure and good follow-up discussions” because although children this age are beginning to understand that the world doesn’t revolve only around them, they still have a hard time understanding the space between the world and themselves.
It is recommended that school aged children listen to the news rather than watch it and that parents should discuss important news with school aged children.
Do this by asking what he already knows about the event:
-Have people talked about the events in Japan?
-What have you heard about the earthquake in Japan from your friends or teachers at school?
-What questions do you have about it?
And if he says he hasn’t heard anything, then say that you are always available to talk about it if he’d like or “describe the event in an age-appropriate way, depending on the circumstances.”
Like with younger children, parents are advised to assure children they are safe and not to over-correct or over-explain. They are then encouraged to follow the news and learn more about the topic if possible.
- Older Kids (9-11)– This age group is still “me-focused” but is able to think more logically about the news and world events. Although they are better suited to handle difficult news stories, they still get confused and need careful, age-appropriate, clarification from parents. (See more relevant information on PBS’s site.)
My friend, Leticia, of Tech Savvy Mama posted an incredibly helpful article: Teaching Kids About Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Japan Through Online Resources. It’s fabulous, full of resources, and is worth checking out. Leticia ended her post with some resources and organizations to help Japan recover.
- Unicef is an organization we donate regularly to, and this is where we have donated again. Our monies will be ‘put to work instantly to provide urgently needed assistance to children who are in grave danger in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami‘.
- Save the Children offers several online ways of helping Japan.
- Red Cross has been listed as a number one spot to donate by my local news station, and from the site, you can register to donate money, volunteer your time, or donate blood. I think a lot of times we don’t realize how valuable blood donations are in times of disaster.
- Yahoo! News lists tons of places to donate in its Japan earthquake and tsunami–How to Help article.
- The Huffington Post has a continually updated list of organizations aiding Japan.
- #women4Japan is being used on Twitter so that women can share what organizations they are supporting to assist Japanese people.