As children learn and explore the world, they need guidance. This is why young children are notorious for all their questions, from why is the sky blue to where does food come from! Sometimes, their learning is fun or silly, but sometimes, their questions are more serious and must be handled with more care. With severe natural disasters happening almost once a month here in the U.S., and minor ones more often, your child will inevitably learn about or be affected by one if they haven’t already. How can we help children understand natural disasters?
Help them feel safe
First and foremost, try to help your child feel safe. Even if a natural disaster they learn about is far away, it may make them fearful for their own safety. Talk to them about a family safety plan in case of an emergency, so that they feel safe and secure knowing there are ways to be safe. If you are in an area that is affected by tornados, identify areas like a basement or internal hallways where they should go to be safe. In addition, it may be helpful to make a family disaster kit. Let them help you gather some essentials like a flashlight, first aid kit, and blankets so they can see how prepared you are.
Find child-friendly resources that explain natural disasters
For younger children, there are lots of helpful lists online of books and even episodes of children’s shows that address natural disasters and the feelings they can often cause. Consider borrowing some through your local library to read with your child as they process all that comes with a natural disaster. Use these helpful tools as a way to not only educate your child, but to start conversations with them about how it makes them feel and what they think. By opening up that conversation, you are teaching them it is okay to talk about their feelings.
Talk about the importance of community
While talking about this, emphasize the importance of community. Whether that is people locally or broader organizations, talk to your child about communities you are part of. Share with them about how these communities have people who are ready to help when bad things happen.
Take your time, and use these tips to teach your child about natural disasters in helpful, age-appropriate ways.