This world has seen too much devastation lately. And, it’s nearly impossible to keep our kids from seeing or hearing about it. Even if you don’t turn on 24 hour cable news when your kids are around, I guarantee they will talk about it on the playground or on the school bus.
It’s unsettling enough as an adult, but imagine how a child views a situation like Haiti?! They may wonder if their hometown will be the next place to be struck down by Mother Nature. They don’t realize that they have better odds of winning the lottery than having their home destroyed by an earthquake (or hurricane, tornado, tsunami, etc).
But like us, kids like to feel like they are in control of their world. So how do you make a child feel safe while at the same time, admit there are things that are out of their control?
- Explain that some things in life are not predictable and that’s okay.
- Give your child a chance to ask you all of his questions and concerns.
- Let a younger child draw a picture to express his feelings. Then talk about it.
- Go over your family plan for emergencies. (If you don’t, now is the time to make one!)
- Make a family survival kit (first aid, bottled water, canned food, etc) in case of emergency.
- Have an escape route from your home and a meeting place outside your home, in case of fire. Practice it.
- Make sure your child knows his home address and phone number.
- Tell your child who to contact if he cannot reach you in an emergency.
Bottom line: You want your child to feel like you are prepared for the unexpected and that everything and everyone will be fine if it ever occurs.
The aftermath of destruction in Haiti is also an opportunity to teach your kids about philanthropy. It’s a small world, after all. And, we need to pitch in to help each other.
- Let your children participate in making a donation or putting together relief packets (many organizations are accepting basic first aid items, clothing, diapers, canned baby formula, bottled water, etc). Perhaps the easiest way to do it is let them text “Haiti” to 90999 for a $10 donation to the International Response Fund. The fund will send them a nice text “thank you” in response!
- Offer assistance locally. Make it a family project to help those less fortunate in your hometown. Teach your child that people everywhere need help sometimes – not just across the world in a place they’ve never heard of!
- Ari Brown, MD, FAAP