In light of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, parents may be wondering how to approach the subject of a significant natural disaster with their tweens. How do you talk to your tweens about world disasters? Sheltering your children is never a good idea. Still, you don’t want to scare them. Tweens are still young enough to be frightened by tragic events. What’s the best approach? Should you downplay world disasters that don’t affect you personally? Should you inform tweens of all details and possible outcomes? Is a certain amount of fear healthy?
Should you wait for tweens to come to you for answers when disaster strikes? In my opinion, this is a disaster in itself. Kids will likely hear about the news from other sources as well. The natural disaster talk is a lot like the sex talk. Who do you want teaching your child about either? When events such as the earthquake in Japan strike, it’s better your tween hears it from you first.
The connection between fear and safety is lifesaving. A certain amount of fear is healthy for human survival. If not for fear, we would all just stand idly by in the face of disaster. Your child should be reasonably afraid, just as you are. On the other hand, if your disaster talk results in your tween quaking with fear under the bed for several weeks, you may want to have another discussion.
How do you avoid scaring your tween when talking to them about natural disasters? When my kids were young, I related news of this type calmly and factually. I would then point out that although disaster can strike anytime, it’s quite rare. Once I told them the news, I would answer any questions they had without imprinting my own fears on them. You are your child’s sense of security at that age. If you show your fear, they will become more frightened.
Should you withhold frightening facts about natural disasters? Does your child need to know that some disasters cause world-wide consequences? Withholding facts is kin to withholding news altogether. Your child may hear scary facts from a source less concerned about their welfare. When you relate facts to your tween, you can do it in a more non-threatening manner.
Providing reassurance is essential for your tween’s mental health. Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your tween is to provide re-assurance in crisis situations. If the disaster strikes close to home, having a plan in place can help provide mental security. Sometimes just knowing what changes to expect can be calming for your tween. Education is key. I recommend talking to your tween often about disaster preparedness to assuage their fears.
More from this contributor:
Preparing Tweens to Become Teens
How to Deal with Tween Cliques
Five Ways to Get Tweens to Listen