By Molly McVoy, M.D.
I did a quick Google search of kids and the Gulf oil spill, and I found everything from “Why are they killing all the birds and sea turtles?” to resources for environmentally minded children on how to start an environmental action plan of their own.
The oil spill in the gulf coast has many worried, from children through adults. The resources for how to talk to them are varied and sometimes confusing. Below are some basic tips for talking to children about the oil spill threatening the gulf coast.
Talking to your children about disasters can be challenging. Children ask tough questions and it can be difficult to know how best to answer them. However, times like this, during disasters, can be a golden opportunity with your children. When current events are scary or confusing, it can be a great opportunity for parents to show their children that there are people to help them and the country get through them.
The best advice I can give for talking to children about anything, but disasters in particular, is this - be honest, be simple and repeat, repeat, repeat. Don’t force your child to talk about the oil spill, but, if they ask, tell them the truth in language that fits with their age. Children know if they’re being told the truth, so answer them as simply and straightforwardly as you can. But, being a child, they will likely ask again and again (and again!). It’s okay if you have to repeat yourself, it’s the open dialogue and the reassurance that children are looking for during times of crisis.
So, as Bill Cosby said of fatherhood “You just need a lot of love and luck - and, of course, courage.”