Family Relationships

Helping Kids Navigate Natural Disasters

Hurricane Matthew, the western wildfires, and other natural disasters may have your kids – and you – feeling anxious. While there is no way to prevent natural disasters and the feelings that come with them, there are ways to prepare and cope.

Keep Information Appropriate

Young children – toddlers and preschoolers – only need basic information. Say something like, “The hurricane caused a tree branch to fall on our electrical line, and that’s why the lights don’t work.” Emphasize firefighters, paramedics, police, and other first responders who are working to clean up the community and keep everyone safe.

For older children and teens, you can go into more detail about what caused the natural disaster. Some children may actually be fascinated with how hurricanes, tornadoes, or fires work, but you should still limit exposure to news coverage and other reports of the disaster. Let older children help you pack emergency kits if and when necessary. Allow them to help reassure younger siblings.

Welcome Their Questions

Your kids will likely be confused, afraid, or even angry when a natural disaster happens. Let them vent those emotions and ask questions. Do not accuse a child of being selfish if he or she is upset about losing possessions, pets, or your home. The phrase “It could be worse” doesn’t help either, because to your child, nothing could be worse right now.

Where Was God?

Your kids may wonder why God allowed the natural disaster to happen or why He let your home or the people around you get hurt when you were prepared. Reassure your children that God does not cause natural disasters, nor does He have a hands-off policy when it comes to recovery. Talk in age-appropriate terms about how natural disasters occur because of our imperfect, sinful world and what we can learn from them.

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