Talking to your kids about the tornado

Kids in North Minneapolis are back in school today, but life has probably not returned to normal for many of their families.  What do you say to kids in this situation?  What do you say to the kids who weren’t affected directly but are aware of the disaster?

After the earthquake in Japan, School Library Journal had a list of eight tips for talking about the disaster with kids.  Many of those tips are appropriate in this situation as well.  A couple that stood out to me:

2. Provide clear, simple answers.

Limit your answer to the question asked and use simple language.

3. If you don’t know the answer, admit it.

If kids ask questions that you can’t answer, tell them so, and then do some research to try and help them sort it out. If they ask “Why did this have to happen?” don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”

For some kids, facts are comforting.  Use informational books like Gail Gibbons’ Tornadoes or Franklin Branley’s Tornado Alert to help them understand what happened and why.

Hope is an Open Heart

The focus, though, should be on helping kids feel safe.  Children’s book author Lauren Thompson was inspired to write the book Hope is an Open Heart after her experience helping her four-year-old son feel safe again after the September 11th attacks.  The book is a child-friendly invitation to optimism, which is what we all need to keep going after a disaster.   A portion of the proceeds from the special paperback edition goes to Save the Children.  This book could be the first step in creating a safe space for kids to ask question and express their thoughts or fears.

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