Parenting Positive Kids

Kids Understanding Disaster: An Age-Appropriateness Guide
October 14, 2012 at 2:20 PM

Provided byDr. Vicki Panaccione

As a parent, you want to monitor what your kids see on TV or on the computer. But what happens when reality is worse than fiction?

Whether it's the aftermath of theearthquake in Haiti or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems there's always some terrible disaster happening in the world. And thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet, your kid can be easily overexposed to these horrific words and pictures.

Depending on age, personality and developmental stage, kids will react differently and have different concerns. So understanding your own kids' mind-set will help you decide how much to say and how much information to give. Here's an age-by-age guide to what your child may be experiencing.

Toddlers are too young to understand what's going on. However oblivious they might be to current events, they do pick up on emotional cues from YOU. If Mommy or Daddy looks sad, scared or upset, they can get that way, too. So the best thing is to try not projecting your feelings onto them and keep calm around them.

  • Preschoolers are beginning to understand the basics of what is happening around them, but haven't really formed any emotional connection to events that don't involve them personally. Again, they tend to pick up emotional cues from Mommy and Daddy, too. So, if you can, avoid public displays of fear and grief in front of them, so they won't feel any effect of the tragedy.

  • Big kids begin to understand current events and are more likely to be exposed to the media that covers it. Kids may become anxious, experiencing fears of personal safety. These youngsters want to know, "Can this happen here?" "What will happen to me?" Provide lots of reassurance. Don't tell your kids that disasters can't happen, if indeed the possibility exists. Let them know how you are prepared, and discuss plans for evacuation, etc.

  • Tweens/Teens are just beginning to question their own existence, so when something terrible happens, they may struggle with the spiritual and humanitarian issues. Things like death and destruction can confuse them and make them question why God would allow such horrible things to happen. Tweens and teens need to be allowed to vent their frustrations, share their emotions and have their feelings heard. So listen to them. Just listen. It's fine to share your similar concerns if you have them and discuss ways that you might be able to contribute, donate or volunteer to help relief efforts.

  • What are ways you have handle this with your kids?
  • Replies

    • jessicasmom1
      October 14, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      communication works greatly with us 

    • Wish2Be
      by Wish2Be
      October 14, 2012 at 8:05 PM

      This is great ! I dont know when to start preping him for an emergency...he will be 3 on Tuesday.

    • SabrinaLC
      October 14, 2012 at 8:12 PM

      Thanks for sharing

    • countrygirlkat
      October 14, 2012 at 9:17 PM

      We are just starting to learn about this since my older two are now 7 and 5.  We were watching The Voice the other night and they were talking about a contestant who had been through Hurricane Katrina and showing pictures of it.  They asked about it and I explained what had happened and they seemed concerned but I told them there were no hurricanes in Colorado lol. 

    • Delirium003
      October 14, 2012 at 9:53 PM
      Thanks for sharing
    • Samanthamommy
      October 14, 2012 at 9:58 PM

      We definitely monitor and make it kid appropriate.

    • TheBabyFactory4
      October 14, 2012 at 10:05 PM
      My girls were 15 months and 3 weeks when hurricane Katrina hit. Of course at that age they were oblivious to what happened at the time, but with it constantly being on the local news and areas still not rebuilt from.the storm and pictures and books and DVDs (we bought them as a donation to the recovery) they had many questions and grew up in the aftermath. So when hurricane Gustav was forecasted it was a pretty scary thing (they were 4 and 3 at that time and then we had our 2 yr old) we had to evacuate too. They saw the damage it did when we got home but saw thy were still safe and we had a home tto live in. And this past August we stayed for hurricane Isaac and that was pretty scary for us because while it wasn't a.high wind storm it hovered over us. The kids were 8,7 and almost 6 so they were fully aware of everything. So after being through 3 hurricanes and seeing they were safe, the news doesn't phase them. They know how to prepare for storms and they know that if its forecasted to be too dangerous to stay we will evacuate.
    • alliesmom112
      October 14, 2012 at 10:22 PM

      thanks for sharing 

    • Meltopia529
      October 15, 2012 at 10:03 AM
    • kellynh
      by kellynh
      October 15, 2012 at 10:13 AM
      Communication... You just have to learn how to communicate in the age appropriate way.

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