Whether you were part of the scary storm last night or are just seeing the devastating images on TV this morning, you might be dealing with some curious or worried kids today. We talked to Dr. Paul Coleman, author of How to Say It to Your Child When Bad Things Happen, to find out how parents should field kids' questions and if they should turn off the TV.
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Be a soothing example. If your family's dealing with flooding and power outages, do your best to model calm. "Kids pay close attention to their parent's mood, so you should show this is all temporary," says Dr. Coleman. "If you've incurred losses, you can convey, yes, it's a little stressful, but eventually things will get back to normal." Stress the things that are already back to normal or that stayed the same throughout the storm, like their family or favorite toys.
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Ask questions before explaining. "Don't rush in with an explanation without first trying to understand what your kids are worried about," says Dr. Coleman. "Don't be too quick to tell them not worry about it. Explore it a little." Once you know their specific concerns-are they worried about the house blowing away or Mommy getting washed away on the way to work?--you can address them specifically and then reassure them.
Don't label feelings as wrong. Let them know that their feelings make sense, and that it's ok to feel whatever they're feeling. Never make them feel bad about being scared or worried.
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Use your judgment about watching the news. "You have to know your child," says Dr. Coleman. "If they are young and impressionable, you might want to shield them. If your child is older, it can be a teaching moment. They'll learn these things happen, the people in charge help out, and things get fixed over time."
Have you talked to your kid about Hurricane Sandy?