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Tsunami Aftershock: Grief, Sickness

Disease, Mental Health Woes Yet to Peak as Tsunami Disaster Continues

Tsunami Aftershock: What to Tell the Kids

Very little children don't need to be made aware of frightening events that will only scare them. But at a surprisingly tender age, children usually find out when something is wrong.

"A 4- or 5-year-old will pick this up. You can't shield kids from this kind of thing," Marshall says. "So if the child is in school, you might ask whether they are worrying or thinking about the tsunami. You might be surprised that they are, even if they aren't talking about it."

Lying to them or trying to deceive children is the wrong approach, says child psychologist Cahir.

"Kids are smart and know what they see. Don't try to lie or deceive or make believe it didn't happen or downplay it. Children do feel naturally sad and upset about these situations," Cahir tells WebMD. "Parents should be supportive but encourage kids to talk. Yes, it is sad and tragic and hurts to look at the pictures. But it helps to talk."

Marshall, too, counsels honesty but warns parents to avoid any gruesome details.

"You want to give it a positive spin for a child," he says. "For older children, you can explain what a tsunami is. If you are in a part of the world where these things don't happen, you want to emphasize that and point it out. For younger children, reassure them that their momma and poppa will keep them safe no matter what."

Cahir and Marshall both recommend letting children participate in any charitable giving the family makes.

"Talk with your children about what one can do to help," Cahir advises. "Send cards or emails -- think about people who survived and their need for help."

Some children -- those who have been abused or who have lost their families in other disasters -- may feel more of a sense of tragedy, Cahir says. Such kids may need extra support.


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