Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Managing Kids Earthquake Fears

Posted on Jan 19, 2010 in Giving |

It’s the deer-in-the-headlights What the hell do I do for something so incredibly hopeless? For a country already in such dire straits? Why do I feel like such an ass that I didn’t focus in on the despicable conditions in  Haiti before? How come it took yet another complete biblical act to draw the world’s attention to the single poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? And, how do I explain this disaster to my children without them becoming paralyzed with fear themselves?

I’ve written about my own earthquake experiences before. I’ve written about my fear of fears before and trying to ensure my children are not fearful for the things we cannot control in life. But the fears they have over the disaster in Haiti are real and all around them. In response, I’ve come up with my kid checklist:

1. Safety first. All our kids in California go through earthquake drills at school. Make sure there is a plan for home. In our home we told the kids to go to the door jams and we would come to them. We told them not to run or hide or try to find us. We showed them where to go and how to protect their heads.

2. Mental safety. We told the kids that they lived in a safe house, built with safe materials. We told them that in Haiti houses were not built the same way. We ensured them that the disaster they see on TV (and everywhere) isn’t going to happen on that magnitude to their home or to their school. We patiently sat at the dinner table and answered questions to ensure they *felt* safe.

3. “I Don’t Know.’ Saying “I don’t know,” to questions about how big earthquakes will be here, will it happen at school, will the power go out, when will it happen all have one answer: I Don’t Know. That’s a hard thing to say to a child when they are fully reliant on you for answers. The only thing that helped the kids was when I told them they’d been through earthquakes, that mommy had been through big earthquakes that there will most certainly be earthquakes in the future and that I had always been safe, even in the worst scenarios.

4. Empower the munchkins. Both kids dumped out their piggy banks and gave most of their money to Haiti relief. They had no problem doing it. They were excited, actually. We also let them talk about Haiti, looked it up on the map, talked about their exports and what they might need (blankets, stuffies, Hersey’s Kisses). At dinner, Thing 1 asked if I could say a prayer for the children of Haiti. Since we don’t pray before our meals, I was pretty shocked. But we did it. It was his idea. He felt he was doing something to help. Thing 2 said she wanted to go teach the Haitians to fish because if you give them fish, they’ll only eat for a day. She takes the parable literally and wanted to go teach them to fish with her fishing rod so they could eat for a lifetime. The beautiful power of children.

5. Manage the media. Now, of course we’re all shielding our kids from the Haiti coverage, but really, look around. It’s simply everywhere right now. Try to manage what they see. No dead bodies. No blood. No famine. I let them see something about the airplanes coming in dropping food and water so they could see what the help is like. The positive side, if there is one, can’t be found as easy as the disaster of it all.

6. Get creative. We are going to have a Haiti garage sale. I’m going to try and get our whole street to do it. It won’t be this week or next, but probably in mid-March. The vast needs in Haiti will go on for years. I’d like to see something done where kids and families come together. The money will be sent to Haitian aid groups, but the Karma will be sent immediately.