Hurricane Harvey and Your Children

Mom talking about Hurricane HarveyMy heart goes out to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and my thoughts and prayers are with them. Closer to home, I find myself asking, “What should I tell my children?” My family lives 1,000 miles away from this tragedy, so it’s tempting to say nothing at all. But I want my children to be socially aware, and I feel that they deserve to know what’s happening in the world. Besides, with summer vacation ending, they’re going to hear about it at school, and I’d rather they hear it from me first. So what should we parents tell our kids about Hurricane Harvey? There’s no simple answer, but here are a few things to keep in mind.

Know Your Child

No one knows what your child can (and can’t) handle better than you. Tailor the information so that they understand what’s going on without becoming afraid for their own safety. For example, young children tend to personalize things and may assume that whatever is happening will happen to them. Kids as young as preschool age probably don’t need much, if any information. If this tragedy does come up, it’s most important to ensure that they know they are safe. Here in Minnesota, we might tell children, “Hurricane Harvey is a very bad storm, but hurricanes happen by the ocean. We don’t have them where we live.”

Let Them Tell You

Our children are sometimes smarter and more aware than we’re ready to believe. We might be dreading a certain topic—only to find that they already know everything we wanted to tell them. With this in mind, a great way to begin a discussion is by asking your kids about it. “There was a bad storm in the South called Hurricane Harvey. Have you heard anything about that?” If they have a lot to say, this is your chance to correct any misinformation, to compliment them on their awareness, and to assure them that they are safe. If the topic is new to them, tell them a little about it (and that they are safe) and allow them to ask questions.

Bake sale fundraiserHelp Hurricane Harvey Victims

As children learn that people are without such basic necessities as food, water, and places to live, they might feel a desire to help. (If your children don’t suggest it, you certainly can.) Empower them to raise money, even if it’s just by calling their grandparents and/or knocking on the neighbors’ front doors. Then let your children choose how to serve the people in need. For example, as outlined in an article by NPR, there are general support funds, as well as specific funds for food, shelter, animals, diapers, and more.

I hope you found this article a good starting point for discussing Hurricane Harvey with your children. For more information, especially for those more directly affected by the storm, you might also appreciate this article from the Child Guidance Center.

Ryan Jacobson
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