How to talk to children about natural disasters

Depending on the region of the planet where you live, it is more or less likely that you and your children will be exposed to extreme natural phenomena. However, in a globalized world like ours, news flies and crosses borders. For this reason, it is important that we are prepared to talk to children about natural disasters, whether they have experienced it in person or heard about it through different means.

This type of phenomenon can occur in a wide variety of ways: hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, fires, earthquakes or tsunamis, among others. In all cases, enormous material and human losses can occur and a strong psychological impact then takes place, not only on the survivors but also, to a lesser extent, on the rest of the population.

Children may be particularly vulnerable to emotional effects misinformation and lack of personal resources. Thus, the accompaniment and support of parents are essential.

Tips for talking to children about natural disasters

Having these kinds of conversations is not easy. We may doubt how much information to give our children and how to communicate it. It can also be confusing for us to know how to support them and help them deal with how they are feeling. For this reason, we offer a series of useful keys.

Provide truthful information

In any case, a basic premise is never lie to children or hide information from them. We have to choose the right words and the right tone, but they have to know what is happening or has happened and how it will affect them. In case they have seen any news, we must make it clear to them that we can all suffer natural disasters but that there are prevention measures and that they are safe.

If they experienced the event in person, they need to know what happened and why, and know what will change from now on. They may have to move or live without electricity or water at home for a certain period of time. If someone close to you has been affected, it is important to explain to the child how he is doing and what his prognosis is.

Lying, hiding, and offering false hope is counterproductive because not only will it not avoid pain, but it will also generate mistrust.

Consider your child’s age

The information a child should receive depends a lot on their age. Younger children will only be able to process part of what happened, so just explain to them what happened and how it will affect them. Older people may want to dig deeper and get more details to better understand ; in any case, pay attention to the rhythm that your child sets in the conversation.

You can start with ask him what he knows about the subject and, from there, clarify or expand on the information. Also, make sure he can raise all his doubts and fears. This is an opportunity to refute false data that may alarm him for no reason.

Promote emotional expression

When talking to children about natural disasters, it is essential to leave room for emotions. children may feel great fear about the possibility of these events happening, especially between 8 and 10 years old, since it is an evolving fear. Expressing it and being able to talk about it with your parents is very useful.

Especially since, if you have personally suffered a natural disaster, it is logical that feelings of anguish, anger, fear or sadness arise, both in children and in adults. As parents, it is important that we were dealing with our own emotional state before to talk to our childrenotherwise we may convey undue worry and despair.

When we feel capable of it, we should accompany the child in the management of his own emotions, allow him to see how we feel (without appearing devastated or out of control) and ask him how he is doing. We can help him put his emotions into words and offer him calm and comfort to cope with this condition.

Promote a sense of control and security

The perception of uncontrollability is one of the factors that increases the likelihood that an event of this type will be experienced as a trauma. Therefore, fostering a sense of control and security, to some degree, is essential. We can explain to the child that nature is not bad, that it does not attack us and does not seek to harm us; natural disasters happen, but there are ways to prevent their damage.

We can also talk to him about the importance of taking care of the environment or give him recommendations for action in the event of a natural disaster. In addition, children should know that there are specialized services that can help us if this happens.

Encourage collaboration and belonging

Finally, when we talk to children about natural disasters, we can encourage them to collaborate as actively as possible. If the phenomenon occurred far away, it may be possible to send clothes, food or help the victims financially. If the disaster took place in the community itself, this collaboration will be easier.

Community activities and volunteering are good strategies to address these issues with children and to find a useful way to channel the emotions that these critical phenomena arouse in us.

Beware of the media when talking to children about natural disasters

Although talking to children about this type of disaster is necessary, it is important to pay attention to the content they watch and which reaches them from the media. It is not healthy for children to spend the day receiving this type of unpleasant news and uncover its sinister details. And even less that they are exposed to explicit images.

When the children are young, let’s avoid confronting them with the news and find the right way to present the information to them. Older children and teenagers can have access to all kinds of content via the Internet: we will therefore have to strengthen communication so that they can express themselves on what they have seen and try to make them aware of the importance of avoiding certain content to ensure their mental well-being.

In conclusion, when discussing this topic with your children, try to be patient and empathetic. Offer information but, at the same time, let it flow. Tell them the truth but in an appropriate way and, above all, remind them that they are loved and will always be taken care of.

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