Hurricanes and Talking to Your Children
My heart goes out to the victims of the recent hurricanes, 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 the ocean, 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, 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 hurricanes and the aftermath? 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, “Hurricanes are very bad storms, but they 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 were recently some pretty bad hurricanes. 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.
Help Victims of Hurricanes
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 hurricanes 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.