News about the deadly hurricane that made landfall in Houston over the weekend seems to be everywhere. With children exposed to more media than ever these days, many parents are left wondering how they can make their kids feel safe amid these images of devastation.
“When talking to your child about tragedies like the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it’s important to help them feel safe and emotionally secure,” said Jimmy Venza, PhD, executive director of the Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness. “Be curious about what your child is thinking and feeling. Ask open questions to hear how he or she is trying to make sense of something so big and scary.”
It’s important that you ensure your message is appropriate for your child based on their age and maturity level. For example, a preschooler may feel reassured to hear that sometimes scary things happen but that you’ll make sure they are safe. Meanwhile, a teenager or middle-school child may want to learn about how they can prepare for similar disasters.
“Help your child understand that it’s normal to feel scared or anxious sometimes and reassure them you are there to keep them safe, and that others adults are working to help those in trouble,” added Dr. Venza.
Once you’ve opened the line of communication, it’s important to offer your children support or help them cope with their emotions.
- Empower your child to help, whether it’s gathering supplies to donate or volunteering at a church or community event to help victims.
- Offer concrete reassurance by explaining what you can do to keep them safe and how to prepare for natural disasters, if age-appropriate.
- Lighten the mood by drawing attention to positive news, praising good deeds and engaging in a fun activity instead of watching the news.