Talking to Your Kids About Natural Disasters

After sustaining an earthquake earlier this week, Mother Nature is at it again with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast. Chances are your child knows about these major events, which could trigger excessive fear for themselves and the safety of the rest of their family.

Dr. Kate Eshleman, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, said the first thing to do is to gauge how much your kids know about natural disasters.

“For all ages, the best way to approach the subject is to ask them what they know. Have you heard about this? Did you see this on TV? What are the kids saying at school or at daycare,” she said. “With younger kids especially, it’s important to kind of limit their exposure to the media attention. They have less ability to kind of distinguish between what’s real and what’s not. ”

Eshleman said above all, the most important thing to remember when talking to your kids is to stay calm.

“Kids always get their cues from parents so it’s important that you remain calm that you’re assured, that you’re comfortable with the information, so that you don’t stress them out or scare them based on your own behavior.”

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If your children are older, Eshleman said it may be a good idea to watch the news or read the paper together to answer any questions they have.

“Be able to gauge their responses. If they make comments or express thoughts or feelings during that, then you’re aware of that and can start a conversation. Sometimes the information provided on TV may be a little too scary or a little bit too much, so then sit down and read the paper. That way there are no graphic images, that sort of thing.”

For more information on preparations for natural disasters, click here.