Thursday, March 17, 2011

Talking to Kids about the Earthquake in Japan

Our hearts and condolences go out to the people of Japan and the families involved in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan last week. 
Everyone has seen the live images, captured on cell phones and video cameras, coming from Japan.  They are vivid, dramatic, compelling, and scary.  We have all watched the coverage on television and online as more and more photos and videos circulate showing the massive tsunami wave rolling over the sea wall, shaking houses and buildings, fires, explosions,  and the massive destruction afterwards.  The subsequent explosions of the nuclear reactor and news of a nuclear reactor meltdown near Sendei, Japan are also extremely disturbing. 
Our 24 hour news cycle enhances the impact of these images which can be traumatizing for viewers of all ages.  Media has a particularly powerful influence on children and adolescents, and the pictures it shows shapes a child’s perception of the world.  Young children watching images of disaster believe that the event is happening in real time, and they’re in danger.  At such times, helping children feel safe and protected in their own home and community is important.  Parents should keep in mind the following tips when viewing photos and videos during and after disasters:
  • Be vigilant!  Not all sources of media provide warnings about upcoming traumatic images.
  • Viewing traumatic images may be re-traumatizing.
  • Limit children’s exposure to media coverage of the event.
  • Co-view media coverage of the trauma and discuss content with children and adolescents.
  • Encourage children to draw, write, play music, and exercise in ways to express their feelings about the traumatic events.
  • Maintain structure and family routines. has more information on how to talk to your children about disasters.

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