Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods are a part of life for people in North Carolina. But for children, times like these can be frightening and overwhelming. Knowing how to talk with children about natural disasters is important for parents, family members, church teachers and leaders.
First, reassure your child of your presence during a storm. Your calm demeanor that models safety and security is crucial to your child’s healthy handling of an event. Be open to answering their questions as best you can. Use age appropriate language and descriptions to help your child understand what is happening without overloading them with fearful imagery or too much information. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I trust that God is in control.”
Use Scripture to assure your child of God’s control and presence even in difficult times. Read or post verses such as Psalms 121:4-5, Psalms 56:3-4, Isaiah 54:10, Matthew 10:30-31 or 1 Peter 5:7. Memorize some of these verses so you are prepared to say them to your child, or memorize them as a family before an event so your child has Scripture to stand on during difficult times.
Limit exposure to television or internet reports of the storm or disaster. Younger children may not realize that coverage of the event is only a replay of one event and not multiple occurrences of similar disastrous events. Find healthy distractions such as board games, art projects or reading to pass the time, especially if the power goes out.
Know that different children will handle fear and anxiety in different ways. One child may express obvious anxiety while another may process it internally. Do not assume a child who is not outwardly expressing fear or anxiety does not need help or comfort.
Your child may ask the same question multiple times or in many different ways. Your consistent answers offered patiently reassure your child they can trust you and that truth exists even in difficult times.
Importance of Planning
Talk with your child about ways your family can help those who are hurting in the aftermath of a natural disaster. A plan for helping can lend a sense of control to children during a time when the world seems to be out of control. Planning for disaster is also a great way to teach problem solving skills to children. Let them brainstorm about possible needs and ways they can help address those needs.
Power of Prayer
An important tool for confronting fear and anxiety is prayer. This can be a time for teaching the importance of a relationship with God and how we can trust that God hears our prayers. Be sure to point out how God answers their prayers in the coming weeks and months following a natural disaster.
Remember that children need to know that both you and God are near. Your calm presence models the continual presence of God in their lives. Just as Jesus used a storm to show His disciples His power and strength, use natural disasters to point your children to the God of the universe.