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For Kids, Natural Disasters Can Whip Up Worries
Date:8/29/2011

ge before, during and after a hurricane or earthquake, like that experienced in the eastern United States in the past week.

"At best, it would be, 'Uh oh, this could happen to us,'" he said. "But let's imagine we're kids: I'm 6 and you're 8, we don't know what is exactly going to happen with our parents and we're watching [a disaster unfolding] on TV. Our experience will be different than if we had a happy family life."

Walker and Goodman said the best thing parents can do to reassure their children is to talk with them about the disaster coverage in an honest and straightforward way.

"I always believe in asking, 'Hey, I saw you watching that show. What's that like for you?'" Walker said.

Parents may feel the need to hide their own feelings of anxiety to better protect their kids, but Walker and Goodman cautioned against that.

"Be honest in the communication as much as possible," Goodman said. "If you lie about it, they may feel they can't trust you."

It's better for parents to admit they're nervous, but then reassure the child that everything will be all right, Walker said. Give concrete examples of why the disaster couldn't happen to them or lay out the steps you'll take to keep them safe if, in fact, the possibility exists.

Other tips for helping kids cope with news of disasters, according to Walker and Goodman, include:

  • Limit the children's exposure to media, and consider cutting back yourself. "Don't be checking the news all the time," Goodman said.
  • Keep to a daily routine because that reinforces the understanding that life continues to be normal.
  • Avoid whispering with other adults about the disaster. Kids may think the whispered conversation is about them.
  • Point out hopeful stories that come out of the disaster, and note the fact that agencies like the American Red Cross are on the scene to help out.
  • Consider volunteering or donating to relief efforts with your childre
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