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How to Talk to Your Children About Hurricane Harvey

In the age of social media and 24 hour news coverage, information spreads faster than ever and parents cannot always screen what their children are seeing. Children will have their own reactions to what they see and this will elicit emotional responses that they often do not know how to handle. Hurricane Harvey

Below are tips to help you explain Hurricane Harvey to your children:

  • Make them feel safe. Whatever you say, end with the message that they don’t need to worry—even if, as an adult, you know that’s not necessarily true.
    • You want them to feel that their little world is still secure. Remind them that there are a lot of people to protect them and that lots of people are working to make sure resources and safety plans are always available.
    • Sit down and have a family meeting to ensure that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. Having set plans will help your child with the fear of the unknown and give them solid ground.
  • Find out what they know and correct any misperceptions.
    • School-age children have undoubtedly heard about the tragedy from their friends, in the classroom and on TV. It’s still important to find out exactly what they know before you start talking.
  • Ask them what they think and how it makes them feel.
    • If they are experiencing anxiety or stress, give them coping skills to work through those feelings.
      • Deep Breathing Exercises
      • Journaling/Coloring pictures about the event
      • Mediation/Mindfulness Exercises

Educate your children on the importance of helping those in need during natural disaster situations such as this. Don’t focus on the destruction, but on the people who are there assisting others.

Here is how your family can help:

  • Find a local food pantry and donate supplies such as canned goods, diapers, pet supplies
  • Contact local Red Cross Chapters and ask how you can help
  • Have a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to helping families in need

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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8 Tips for Talking to Young Children about Natural Disasters

Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and tornadoes can be frightening and concerning for adults, so imagine how confusing and scary they can be for young children! When talking to children about natural disasters, there is a fine line between honesty and explaining in an age-appropriate way and going into too much detail that can worry a child.

Here are 8 ways you can approach talking to your young child about natural disasters in a calm way: Natural Disasters Blog

 1. Assess what your child already knows (or doesn’t know).

• When a natural disaster occurs, children are likely to hear about it on television, at school, from friends, or through conversations taking place around them. Before talking to your child, ask questions to help you understand what she already knows. This will help you understand her concerns, questions, feelings and even her misconceptions.

2. Listen to you child’s questions.

  • Children will likely have many questions when a natural disaster occurs. “How does a thunderstorm happen? What happened to the people living in ________? Will it happen to us?” Normalize this curiosity and concern by saying things like “I can understand why you would want to know that. That’s a good question.”
  • After answering, check in with your child to make sure she understood. If your child still does not understand try different, but still concrete, easy-to-understand language, until your child grasps the concept

3. Be proactive.

  • Children will likely have many questions when a natural disaster occurs. “How does a thunderstorm happen? What happened to the people living in ________? Will it happen to us?” Normalize this curiosity and concern by saying things like “I can understand why you would want to know that. That’s a good question.”
  • After answering, check in with your child to make sure she understood. If your child still does not understand try different, but still concrete, easy-to-understand language, until your child grasps the concept

4. Use simple, clear, consistent language.

  • Children will likely have many questions when a natural disaster occurs. “How does a thunderstorm happen? What happened to the people living in ________? Will it happen to us?” Normalize this curiosity and concern by saying things like “I can understand why you would want to know that. That’s a good question.”
  • After answering, check in with your child to make sure she understood. If your child still does not understand try different, but still concrete, easy-to-understand language, until your child grasps the concept

5. Demonstrate calm.

  • Children often pick up on their parents’ feelings. If you seem panicked or anxious, your child is likely to react in similar ways. Model a calm, matter-of-fact demeanor to show your child that your family is safe.
  • If you need support yourself, don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends. It can be helpful to have this kind of separate space to discuss your own emotions.

6. Reassure your child to help her feel safe.

  • When young children hear about a natural disaster and see images of destroyed homes, they may worry and wonder, “Will this happen here?” Assure your child that natural disasters are uncommon and that the chance of one occurring where you live is low.
  • Emphasize that natural disasters are no one’s fault, as your child may have anxieties about what could cause a natural disaster.
  • Inform your child of your family’s safety plan in case of a natural disaster. For example: Mommy and Daddy have a plan to keep us safe if there is ever a big tornado. We will all go to _______ in the basement and cover ourselves with a mattress to protect ourselves. Having earthquake/tornado/fire drills once per year can also reassure your child that if a natural disaster were to occur, she would be safe.

7. Be honest.

  • Honesty is key when answering questions. Some parents may want to keep some information from their children to protect them. They might say, for example: “No one died from the tornado” or “A storm like that would never happen here. This risks your child hearing about these details elsewhere. This could confuse your children and lead them to conclude that they cannot trust what you say.
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, do not hesitate to tell your child. You can even look for answers together, which can also help your child feel safe and comforted.

8. Explore your child’s feelings and provide validation and comfort.

  • Children may feel a variety of emotions after a natural disaster, such as fear, confusion, anxiety, guilt, and sadness. Some children may not openly talk about their feelings during this time, but that does not necessarily mean they are not thinking about it. When your child does share her feelings with you, provide empathy, acknowledgment, and validation.
  • In an effort to comfort their child, some parents may inadvertently minimize their child’s feelings by saying things like “You have nothing to be scared of.” A better alternative is to empathize with her feelings first and then offer reassurance. One example is: “I can understand why you would be scared that we might have a big earthquake. I want you to know that there is only a very small chance that an earthquake would happen here. And if something happens, we have a plan to keep us safe.”

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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