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.

What the sirens can mean

Minneapolis mama and designer echoed my thoughts on tornado sirens in this post in which she wrote,

“The day after the last siren, the one I did not heed, I met a new friend in the park for a playdate.  She told me the sirens went off just after her two girls fell asleep, and that, also home alone, she could not wrap her head around the logistics of waking a 3 year old and an infant and carrying them to the basement, so she didn’t.  I told her how I had outright ignored it, even with waking children, how it didn’t seem possible, somehow, for the tornado to enter the city.”

That’s how I felt too.  We heard the sirens yesterday, and we did nothing.  In our neighborhood, it barely rained.  There was no wind.  It’s hard to believe that a mere five miles away a tornado was tearing through a neighborhood.

Last year at this time, we lived in that neighborhood.  My mothers-in-law and several friends and acquaintances still live there.  No one we know what hurt, but they are still without power, cell service, and Internet service.  They have much clean-up and repair work to do.  Here are some pictures my husband took yesterday near his mom’s home:

Help is needed.  Find out how you can help here.  If you are in need of help, find out where to go here.

Let’s vote for kids

Kids FirstI vote for kids.  I’ve seen the bumper stickers.  I’ve even wanted to sport one (though I am car-free), but I’ve also wondered what exactly it meant.  Then an ARC of David L. Kirp’s Kids First came across my desk.  I could not resist reading it.  And, I must admit, I could not resist being caught up in its vision.  Here is the kids first agenda as laid out by Kirp (who, by the way, is a professor at UC Berkeley):

  • Give new parents strong support.
  • Provide high-quality early education.
  • Link schools and communities to improve what both offer children.
  • Provide mentors to youngsters who need a stable, caring adult in their lives.
  • Give kids a nest egg that helps pay for college or kick-start a career.

Kirp points out so many success stories from Head Start to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I’d like to point out a a success story here in the Twin Cities.  Bright Water Montessori School is the only nationally accredited preschool in North Minneapolis, and the first on the northside to recieve a 4-star rating from ParentAware.  Bright Water is committed to North Minneapolis–to promoting peace in the, often very unpeaceful, neighborhood.  My daughter attended Bright Water’s preschool program for a year, and we were thrilled with the education she received.  I was continually impressed with the passion and commitment from the staff and the other parents.  They are doing great things there, and I am pleased that my family was able to be part of it.

Learn more about this great school, and what it is doing for North Minneapolis, in this video:

“Excellent education doesn’t just happen in the suburbs or in South Minneapolis.  It can happen anywhere.” –Ann Luce