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Moms Talk: What To Tell Your Kids About Japan Deaths, Crisis?

Welcome to the online parents' discussion. If kids are upset, how can we as parents comfort them?

This week, Minori Yamaki, the director of at St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church, said three- and four-year-olds at the school were worried about their grandparents in Japan.

But kids of any cultural background can be troubled by the news coming out of Japan--massive earthquake, tsunami, nuclear danger, radiation and possibly 10,000 people killed.

What can parents say to kids who may be frightened by the news? Do you purposely keep them away from news coverage, or is this the time for a "teachable moment"?

All parents are welcome to comment. Scroll down to the "Comments" section below. 

Kathy Ruhnke March 16, 2011 at 02:33 AM
I think what, if anything, you tell your kids is dependent upon their age, maturity level and temperament. We've told our 5 year old nothing of the Japanese tragedy, and she's seen no news coverage of the event. She wouldn't understand the event and, if I told her about it, she would become anxious and wonder whether we would die from an earthquake, would our house be crushed, etc. She still is at an age when she talks about a ghost in her classroom and, occasionally, monsters in her classroom. An older Sunday school classmate recently told her there are a lot of bad people in the world, and my husband and I couldn't persuade her otherwise. (there are, I know, but my daughter imagines they are hiding behind every tree). She is still trying to grasp what's real and what's not. We are still struggling at trying to explain the concept of death, which is an ongoing topic of conversation. Telling her about a horrific natural disaster - which is beyond our control - would traumatize her more than educate her at this point. If she was older and heard about this (or about whatever tragedy/disaster is making the headlines), I'd try mightily to reassure her that she is safe. And that mommy, daddy and lots of other people are working to keep her safe.
Tricia Williams March 16, 2011 at 03:49 AM
I would agree that what you tell your kids depends on how old they are. Very young children, probably kindergarten age and younger are not likely to hear about this from their friends at school and would for the most part not understand and become very afraid. Often times older elementary school-age children hear things from other kids in their classes, on the bus, etc. If it's likely that your child will hear about this at school or somewhere else then I would say that parents should explain in simple and easy to understand terms and encourage your child to come and talk to you if they have questions or hear disturbing or confusing information. I would not recommend letting young children watch the news reports on TV or online. The devastation and graphic images are beyond their comprehension and frankly can be difficult for adults to see. It is always good to let your child know that you are there to take care, protect and love him/her. Sometimes when things like this happen (that are totally out of our control), if you are religious, prayer can be reassuring even for the youngest children.
Scott K March 16, 2011 at 11:24 AM
We have twin 4 year olds and our 5 year old kindergartner. Death has been a frequent topic here, too, and the little ones are old enough to discuss things with their older sibling--who has already asked about the earthquake in Japan. We very tightly control what they watch on TV and they have virtually no internet access at home. But of course, through kids on the bus and in school, my inquisitive oldest has been asking. We've followed the mantra, "little answers for little questions", meaning we try to answer the question in a simple of terms as possible. We explained what an earthquake was. We did relate it to tornados (a topic that came up last year when we went into the basement) as a natural disaster and also explained that we were very safe from them, here. The people of Japan have been in our prayers before bed. Scott / Niles Patch Mom's Council
Arne Asada March 17, 2011 at 06:35 AM
So this is preschool kids at a church asking? Tell them that sometimes God gets mad at all the nonbelievers so he has to smite thee to learn them a lesson.
Scott K March 17, 2011 at 01:43 PM
No. It's my preschool kids asking at home. Did my reference to "prayer" offend you somehow? This smells like someone trolling with flamebait. Nothing to see here.

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