My dad and step-mom live on a nice quiet block where nothing much happens, except when the grandchildren come to invade and cause a world-class ruckus. But two days after the horrific natural disasters that devastated southern Asia and East Africa, Fox News showed up at their door to ask if they had any pictures of the next-door neighbors. The news people explained that the father had lost his wife and daughter in the tsunamis that hit just after Christmas. Only he and a son, who did not travel to their native land, were left of the family.
While this tragedy affected relatively few Americans directly, the news resonates for all of us. As glued to the TV as my wife and I were to learn about the events, we turned it off when the children (all of them 6-years-old and younger) were around. We just didn't feel they needed to know about the deaths and didn't want to add the fear of tidal waves to their list of worries.
Had they caught wind of the disaster, we certainly would have made an effort to explain, since it is absolutely essential to acknowledge a child's fear, even if it's unlikely that a tsunami will ever affect them. And, the issue may still be one we will have to deal with, as the news continues to report the mortalities (more than 80,000 at this writing) and other related facts.
Since 9/11, psychologists and other mental-health experts have expounded on the ways to talk to children about disaster. With the mass of information available, here are a few suggestions that may help ease their kids' minds.
By helping your children through their own fears of disaster, you will meet one of the great tests of parenthood. Bear in mind that if all you do is tell them that you will protect them with everything in your power, you will be doing very well by your children.
Here's to a safer and healthier New Year for all of us.