How to explain catastrophe in Japan to your children

Earthquake, tsunami and radiation in Japan

Friday, March 11th, 2011, we woke up and learned about the earthquake in Japan, followed by a disastrous tsunami. Have you shared this tragic news with your kids or have you tried to protect them from this sad information?

The first thing you have in mind when you hear such bad news is that many people lost their lives. Then, you think of damages that occurred there. As if that wasn’t enough, Japan was terrified by another danger to worry about: radiation risk from badly damaged Yukushima nuclear plant.

Explaining catastrophe to your children

The whole world is thrilled and shocked. The update is all over the news and the information about this catastrophe is spread from mouth to mouth. So is it possible to protect your children from such bad news? Is there even a point doing it? More likely we should prepare our children to deal emotionally with disasters, with bad things happening to the world. We should try to have them understand that life is temporary and eventually everybody will end their lives in this world. But it is important to live well and be a good person, enjoy yourself and be grateful for whom we have and what we have in our lives. Because, like in the case of Japan, we may lose it immediately. But, indeed, how to explain it to your children: five, seven, eleven years old? If you tell them about a 8.9 magnitude earthquake, do you think they will understand what it means? To help them understand it and deal with the tragedy, use their wording and compare it to their world.

Emergency plan in case of catastrophe

In case of any emergency, all the family members should have an emergency plan to follow. Especially children should know what to do in case of any catastrophe. Set up a plan, teach them and remind these steps:

  • find two exits from every room – the second being a window. Teach your children not to open the door if it feels hot nearby
  • act fast – teach them that if the alarm/sprinklers turn on, it’s a sign of emergency and kids should leave the house, even alone
  • go out and don’t come back in – no child should return to look for a parent, sibling, pet or belongings
  • agree on a meeting spot – make sure it’s a well-known place, like the big tree in front of the house
  • and always, every child should know his last name and parent’s phone number

You can familiarize children with this emergency plan by drawing the escape route when playing. Have them create the drawings and post them on a highly visible place, like the fridge in the kitchen.

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