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Japan Earthquake and Hawaii Tsunami: Talking to Your Kids About Natural Disasters

Tsunami

What do you tell your kids when the scary stuff in movies happens in real life?

I’m not big on horror movies, science fiction movies or movies in which lots of people die. I go to the movies to escape from reality, but I don’t need two hours of screaming, blood and the loss of life. The kind of escapes I like generally involve Reese Witherspoon or a similar romantic comedy lead and the hunk du jour, or the latest Jane Austen adaptation on the silver screen.

On the occasions when I do get stuck in disaster films, I make it through by telling myself that it’s not real life; it’s fiction. So when I awoke this morning to news of the devastating earthquake in Japan, and that it may affect Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States, I felt like I was sitting in one of those movies, although one in which I couldn’t walk out at just the right time to refill my drink or go to the bathroom.

As a parent, I suppose have to keep it together in case my kid ever asks for an explanation about why bad things happen in real life. I’m glad I wasn’t a parent on September 11, 2001. And I’m glad my daughter isn’t old enough today to ask why the people in Japan, Hawaii, California and the rest of the Pacific Coast have to fear for their lives and livelihood because of a force of nature.

While I know there are actually ways to explain why nature does what it does (although I’m hardly the person to do it, having received my worst grade in college in the Historical Geology class I was required to take), I’m not sure how to go about explaining tragedy and human suffering. I suppose I have some time before she’ll start asking questions, but it’s not something I’m looking forward to.

We go about our day-to-day lives in our routine, selfishly caught up in our world and all of the seemingly important but relatively trivial events that make up our existence. When news of earthquakes and tsunamis hit and lives are lost or destroyed, it certainly puts things into perspective. I’m not sure I can explain why things happen the way they do, but they help me put my life back into perspective anyway.

How do you talk to your kids about natural disasters?

Image: Wikipedia

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