In the Aftermath

09.02.2005 | Health, Energy and EnvironmentWhat should parents do when children see disturbing images of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the media and become frightened?

Keri J. Brown Kirschman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Dayton who teaches courses in child psychology, offers a number of ways for parents to help children:

* Provide opportunities to talk: "Young children are likely to form an incorrect guess of how the disaster happened and may believe that their own family is also at risk for such a disaster," she said. "Young children may not understand that these events happened hundreds of miles away. Parents should ask children what they think happened and give children an opportunity to ask questions in order to help uncover and talk about any erroneous ideas. Be sure to be honest in answering questions in an age-appropriate way."

* Don't push: "Some children and adolescents may be coping ok with the news. Be sure that children of all ages know that they can talk about it at any time, but do not push them to discuss," she said.

* Stick to routines: "Children should be reassured of their safety. Children feel most safe when they are on their usual routines, so stick to normal meal and bedtimes," she said. "Keep up with those activities that your child finds enjoyable."

* Give: "Children will benefit from the opportunity to give to the relief cause. Hands-on activities like a lemonade stand, a bake sale or drawing pictures to put with items to be donated will help children feel good about contributing," she noted.

* Limit television viewing: "Parents should limit their own viewing of the hurricane coverage. During this difficult time, adults will likely feel stressed and anxious regarding the situation. Even children who are not directly watching the news may pick up on and react to parental distress. Similarly, limit adult conversations regarding the graveness of the situation in front of children."

Contact Keri J. Brown Kirschman at (937) 229-5404.