Dear Dr. Levister: I’m not Haitian but I feel so much pain for the people of Haiti. How do I discuss this tragedy with my children? P.B. online
Dear P.B.: It’s difficult enough for adults to put their arms around the harrowing images pouring out of Haiti. So how do you talk to your children about this kind of catastrophe?
A patient told me her 9 year old asked if the people suffering were from the Katrina disaster because they look the same.
Toothbrushes, band-aids and toothpaste, they are simple, everyday items, but toiletries will not only help the victims of the Haiti, but they can help establish a sense of empathy and safety when dealing with the tragedy.
Put a face on the disaster by preparing care packages together with kids from your neighborhood, church and schools. Explain that the children of Haiti love to sing and play games just like themselves.
Show them where Haiti is on the map. Explain tragedy can happen to children of all races and ages in different parts of the world. Tell them the packages they put together will travel a long distance and that their efforts are part of a worldwide outreach.
It’s almost impossible to completely escape the images coming out of Haiti and at some point you may want to give the television, radio and Internet a rest. But don’t shield your children from the coverage. Having discussions with the older kids about the face of poverty, and the difficulty of life elsewhere can help your children develop a sense of awareness, sensitivity and charity.
If you are so inclined suggest that each child offer a prayer, draw a picture or write a letter to the children of Haiti. Drop the care packages off at a local Red Cross Center. Correct misinformation and ask them for suggestions on other ways to help. As the pictures of tragedy and triumph continue to develop, creating a sense of empathy and reassurance that includes your children will benefit everyone.
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