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
"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.