Talking About Disasters to Children of Different
Children understand disasters at their own developmental
level. It is important to talk to children at their level of understanding.
Giving them too much information can be scary and confusing, and is not necessary.
You can be honest with children at their level without overwhelming them.
Children between the ages of birth and five
years of age think of the world only in terms of their own direct experience.
Three to five year olds might be interested only in the ambulances, fire trucks,
people getting hurt, blood, fire, crashes and buildings falling down. Four and
five year olds will also be fascinated with death, although they cant
yet fully understand it. They grasp the feeling tone of the event through your
engage in magical thinking. They might ask
why superman did not come to help. There is no need to correct them or
give them more information at this age.
Young children may repeatedly ask the same questions.
This is because they are not fully able to comprehend the events or the feelings
around them. It is useful to keep answering their questions, but keep it simple.
The most important thing for preschool children
is to reassure them that they are safe.
Elementary School Children
Six to twelve year olds are able to understand events outside their direct
experience. They watch TV, so protecting them from information about the events
is unlikely. They may understand some pieces of the story very clearly and may
be totally confused about others.
At this age, you can explain what motivates people
to act in violent ways. This would be a good time to talk about healthier ways
of dealing with anger, prejudices, tolerance and getting the message across
that violence is not acceptable.
Middle and High School
teenagers will experience confusion about the reality of this situation. Some
may avoid talking about the situation because they dont know what
to do about the fear, anger, confusion and sadness they are carrying.
It is important to talk about it,
ask them what they thinking and how they are feeling.
It is natural for children to feel that their sense
of safety has been threatened. Staying physically close to you may be your child's
way of coping. Your presence alone is immediately soothing, and can help her
to recover her sense of security.
Stay connected to loved ones during the first phase
of this shock, while information is gathered. Maintaining normal daily
routines is comforting for children and adults alike.
Establish a safe environment for talking about
feelings. Answer questions honestly, but do not try to explain anything
you cannot understand yourself. Refrain from giving false promises, but do convey
a sense that you believe this tragedy will cause people to actively address
Protect children, especially young children from
repetitive, violent imagery in the media.
Encourage teenagers to become involved in positive
ways to help in the local community, ie: donating blood, collecting money by
doing a car-wash, etc.
[reproduced with permission from www.crescentlife.com]
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:08:06 AM
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