Non-stop coverage of Japan’s 8.9 earthquake and the horrific images of the Tsunami’s path of destruction had been the daily focal point of broadcast news stories. It’s devastating for adult to view the on-going reports, watching the constant exodus of people leaving what use to be their coastal towns. On top of this devastation their nuclear reactors are beginning to deteriorate. The ramifications of this could cause more death and massive radiation sickness. As an adult it has caused [me] great stress, insomnia and anxiety. Can you imagine the affect, consciously and subconsciously, it’s having on our children? Although they may not outwardly understand the massive catastrophe they are absorbing our fears, stress and feelings of helplessness.
When Japan’s earthquake and Tsunami hit the news networks the world watched stunned at the images. Hours of footage of towns being swept away, people trapped in homes and cars, families separated amid the total devastation. Throughout the day we watched almost 8-hours of news reports. The next morning my granddaughter awoke with a headache saying she couldn’t sleep because of her fears and anxiety. I realized it was too much for her to absorb.
When she returned home from school I asked, “Have they talked about the quake in your classes? Have they had counselors come in to address your questions and fears?” She looked at me like I had two heads. Her response, “No, no one seems to understand exactly what is happening. I understand because you explained everything to me. You’ve told me not to be scared but to understand that this was a terrible natural disaster.” I wondered if other parents have neglected to discuss the subject with their children. Or have they allowed them to watch it unfold on television. It occured to me how important it is to keep a sense of daily normalcy. Here are four ways you can help your children cope with disaster anxiety.
Baths Instead of Showers: Instead of a quick nightly shower let your kids take an extra-long bath. Younger kids may want to play with their floatable toys older kids may want to soak in scented bubble baths. Sit with them, scrub their backs or make bubble beards. It will also help you to unwind by spending this quality time calming their fears.
Earlier Bed Time: The timing of this particular disaster coincided with Day Light Saving Time. Children have already loss an hour. Moving bed time up by a half an hour could help them get the extra sleep needed to quiet their mind and physically relax to achieve a better quality of sleep.
15-Minutes News Updates: A few minutes of news can be helpful. Let them see the situation is progressively getting better. The disaster will ultimately end and things will get back to normal, even if it takes a long time. Keep your information simple and optimistic.
Scheduled Fun Time: Natural disasters are life changing experiences. The fatalities can be massive. Through it all children still need time to be children. Let them know that it’s still okay to have fun and laugh. Scheduling an extra family game night helps. We chose to play Wii ™ for an hour after dinner. It gives us an opportunity to concentrate on something entertaining; in turn lowering our stress, blood pressure and anxiety.
Personal Parenting Experience