3 Essential Tips for Talking To Your Kids About Natural Disasters

3 Essential Tips for Talking To Your Kids About Natural Disasters

As a psychologist, I’ve talked to many mothers and fathers who share a common concern: should parents talk to their children about natural disasters and catastrophic events? Isn’t it too frightening and overwhelming for them to process?

But here’s the thing: while not talking to your child about risks may shield them from worrisome thoughts in the moment, studies show that it actually increases anxiety and leaves them unprepared and vulnerable. And what’s more, if they don’t get their information from you, they’ll eventually get it from somewhere else. And do we really want TV shows and movies standing in for us on this important topic?

It’s increasingly important that these discussions should not be outsourced—in most cases, not even to teachers and schools. Because when disaster strikes, our voices are the ones our children should hear in their heads, providing them with reassurance and guidance.

When talking to your kids about emergency and disaster planning, you have an opportunity to reframe the fear they may be experiencing into confidence. By opening up a dialog, asking questions, and listening, you’re conveying to your children that emergencies and disasters are situations that they have some control in. You are providing assurance that they can help themselves and help others. They are not helpless. They can actively reduce fear.

Additionally, sharing factual information about natural disasters allows you to demystify something that may seem frighteningly mysterious. Although natural disasters are generally unpredictable, there are often underlying reasons or moments in time when they are more likely to happen, and educating your child about them can help transform them into something more comprehensible.

Here are three things to keep in mind when you are discussing natural disasters with your child:

Step 1: Keep calm. Be the voice of reason. Whatever you tell them in preparation is what they will recall during an actual event. The more collected positive, and rational you can be, the better.

Step 2: Share your knowledge enthusiastically and often. Encourage your child to ask questions and be direct, factual and candid in your answers. It’s OK to admit when you don’t know something; turn this into an opportunity to find the answer together.

Step 3: Empower your child. Listen to and involve them in preparation. Lead with questions and listen. Encourage creativity, ingenuity, and problem solving. The more involved they are, the safer they will feel.