Helping Kids Understand the Disaster in Haiti

| by Dr Gwenn

The enormity and randomness of natural disasters such as the one that devastatedHaiti this week is truly overwhelming. If we’re having difficulty coming to terms with the myriad of emotions and paralyzing impressions as adults, you can imagine how challenging this has been for our kids, regardless of age, to start to make sense of.

A few years back around a similarly challenging world event, I discussed the issue of talking with kids about tough world events with Dr. Paula Rausch from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. You can my full column with her advice here but the bottom line is to reassure our kids about how rare these events are and that they are currently safe.

In addition, it’s important to monitor the news coverage. It’s tempting to keep tuning in and see what new developments have occurred but the images are grim and the stories disturbing. Those are tough enough for us and even more difficult for our kids.

Many parents wonder what to say to their kids and how much to talk about world events. Your kids temperment, personality and age will be your ultimate guide. Small children, preschoolers and kindergartners, really don’t need to know much, if anything. Their lack of life experience and fancifull imaginations make it difficult to grasp the situation.

For older children, stick to the facts and be ready to answer questions as they arise. Try and resist the temptation to second guess their reaction because many older kids take these situations in stride while others become very emotional, in total disbelief that others have been so impacted by a world event.

For older kids, middle school and high school, these tough world events bring out their need to help. With so many ways to give and donate aid to Haiti via texting and even iTunes, encourage your kids to give if they feel so inclined. That will help them feel less afraid and part of the solution to helping a country in need and rescuing kids in trouble, which tends to be very important to tweens and teens. Even collecting spare change and bringing it to the local Red Cross will make them feel incredibly proud they’ve done something to help a horrible event.

If you find your child is acting out because of the Haiti situation or acting anxious, call your pediatrician to discuss. Some kids do find these situations very troubling and need some extra support.

For more information check out this link.

Finally, if you and your family are interested in making a donation to Haiti relief efforts, here are the links:

Google Haiti Relief Page
American Red Cross Haiti Relief Page

Or, if you have iTunes, you can go to the iTunes store and look for the Donate to Haiti Relief button on the iTunes Store home page which will take you to this page: