Once again, parents and teachers are faced with the challenge of discussing a frightening natural disaster with children. Although these may be difficult conversations, they are also important. There are no "right" or "wrong" way to talk with children about such tragic events. However, here are some suggestions that you may find helpful:
- Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions. At the same time, it's best not to force children to talk about things unless they're ready.
Earthquakes and other natural disasters are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many young children feel frightened and confused. As parents, teachers and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner. Fortunately, most children, even those exposed to trauma, are quite resilient. However, by creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope with stressful events and experiences, and reduce the risk of lasting emotional difficulties.
David Fassler, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Burlington, Vt. He is also a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, and a member of the Work Group on Consumer Issues of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
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