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How to Talk to Young Children About Natural Disasters

Providing answers and comfort to little kids

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When a natural disaster hits, such as tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, it's very hard to avoid images and footage. Even if your preschooler doesn't watch the news or look at newspapers or magazines, it's likely that, one way or another, news of the tragedy may reach your little one's eyes and ears. To that end, it's important to talk to your child, find out what they know about what is going on (if they know at all that anything is going on) and do your best to allay their fears and concerns. Here's how.

Know Where They Are Coming From Young children can be very self-centered. Everything and anything is about them. So when they see photos of houses being destroyed, it's very possible that soon enough they will worrying that their house is going to be damaged. Do your best to reassure them that natural disasters are not something that happen every day and the likeliness of something like this happening to them is very, very tiny.

Make Sure You Are OK Kids pick up on the stress of adults. If you are affected by what is going on, try your best not to get too upset in front of your little one. Try to stay calm when your little one is around.

Talk About What is Going On With a young child, you don't have to go into too much detail -- "There was a very, very, very big storm -- bigger than anyone has ever seen -- and it caused a lot of damage. Answer any questions they may have simply and directly. Tell the truth. If you aren't sure of an answer, try to find it out from a trusted source.

Watch What They Watch It's not a bad idea to limit the exposure of upsetting images or videos. If your child is watching anything, make sure you are there with him, to answer any questions.

Be Mindful of His Mood and Behavior If after viewing footage or hearing about a natural disaster, your child seems irritable or scared, is having trouble sleeping or is having nightmares or is otherwise regressing in other areas, the two could be related.

Get More Help if You Need It If your child is very upset and you aren't sure what to do, talk to her pediatrician for more assistance.

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