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Explaining World tragedy to Children - By Chick Moorman and Thomas Halller

Your 6 year old has just seen video of real children being washed out to sea. Your teen sits transfixed watching images of people clinging to trees, mothers wailing as they discover dead children in an endless line of unclaimed bodies, and babies crying hysterically for their mothers. At the dinner table your 5th grader asks, ?Can anything like that happen to us, dad??

How is a parent to respond? What should you say? What should you do? How do you deal with your child?s fears without increasing them? Is it possible to reassure your child at a time when you, yourself, are horrified by the images of intense pain and grief you see in the hearts and on the faces of parents half way around the world?

Yes, you are filled with empathy for the survivors who have lost loved ones, homes, and jobs. Yes, you are extremely grateful that your children are safe in your comfortable home as the horrific images continue to flow onto your television screen. And yes, you can use this incredibly tragic situation to help your children learn lessons of love, compassion, and of the indestructible nature of the human spirit.

Once children have seen the images of tragedy and suffering it is necessary to debrief it with them. The sooner the better. By debriefing, we mean answering their questions, providing information, asking questions, and reflecting their feelings.

Provide the scientific information for which they are asking. Tell your children in age appropriate language what you know about how nature can create a tidal wave, tornado, hurricane, volcanic eruption or whatever the tragedy might be. Keep this part factual. You can even use books or magazines to assist you in providing information.

Tell your children the effects of the natural disaster. Talk about the destruction that was created as a result of nature?s fury. This is a good time to make the connection between cause and effect. Limit what you say to what was seen on TV or directly questioned by your children. Too much information at this point can increase their fright and worry. The goal here is to be brief, accurate, and provide them with the specific information for which they are looking. If you fail to give them information, if you fail to debrief, children?s brains will fill in the blanks. Better to fill in those gaps yourself with factual knowledge than to have your children fill them with their s.

Concentrate on feelings. Your children will be seeing a wide variety of feelings expressed on TV. They will see sadness, panic, grief, relief, joy, depression, frustration and desperation, among others. In addition, they will personally be full of unexpressed and often unrecognized feelings.

When you sense they are feeling empathy, sadness, or pain, say so. Tell them, ?You seem deeply saddened about this,? or ?You sound scared and frightened that this might happen to us.? Children are starving for feeling recognition and this is a great time to supply it.

When strong emotion is shown on TV, honor it by talking about it. Mention the extreme sadness and grief that is shown there. Refrain from being an adult who ignores the grief of others and refuses to acknowledge it. Do not treat hurting human beings like they are invisible. Talk about your feelings. Tell your children about the sympathy, empathy, and pain you feel for the loss of others. Allow your children to hear and see you express feelings. In so doing, you are helping them acquire a feeling vocabulary that they can use their entire lives.

When you communicate your feelings and honor the feelings of your children for people around the world, you teach them important lessons about the human condition. You help them appreciate how we are all more alike than different. You help them see that we are all connected, no matter how distant we seem. You help them learn we are all one.

As you go through this debriefing process, encourage your children look for the helpers. Helpers always come. There are always people who step forth to help. In the case of a major tragedy there will be many helpers, playing out a variety of roles. Point them out to your children. When small problems occur in their own lives they will have learned to look for the helpers. There are helpers at school, on the playground, in the mall, and on the highway when our car breaks down. Learn to look for helpers and they will be more likely to show up when you need them.

Discuss with your children how you as a family can be helpers during this tragedy. Perhaps you can send money, give blood, say prayers, send love, or call the Red Cross to see what kinds of items can be donated. Choose one or more ways to be helpers as a family and allow your children to help implement that strategy with you. Pray together. Let them observe as you give blood. Take them shopping for the toiletry items needed by the Red Cross. Let them help you address the envelope that sends the check. Get them involved in the process of being a helper. Let them see and be love in action.

Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers go out to the families directly affected by the most recent tsunami. The scope and depth of the pain and heartache of catastrophic tragedies like this are not measurable. Yet, those same horrific events can be used for good if we help our children learn about feelings, looking for the helpers, appreciating the connectedness of all human beings, and the beauty of one heart reaching out to another across the continents. We can help them learn that around the world is a long way away and still very much a part of our neighborhood.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of ?The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose," (available from Personal Power Press at toll free 877-360-1477,, and bookstores everywhere). They also publish a FREE email newsletter for parents. Subscribe to it at Visit , , and

How to Handle a Mid-School Year Move - By Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach


Q: What?s worse than moving ?

A: Moving in the middle of the school year.

My family did it more than once when I was growing up. I still remember some of the incidents-being introduced in the front of the class, having to share a locker until they could find one for me, breaking into the already-formed social groups, having the wrong "accent".

Whatever the reason for the move, moving is stressful.

While you`re anticipating the new location and the new job, doing all the paperwork, showing the house, packing, and handling those logistics, remember that your children are going through the same stress only with less cognitive understanding and practically no control. If they don`t know what it`s like to "be the new kid on the block," they`re about to find out.

The NCC says it takes as long as 16 months for both adults and children to adjust to a move.

Here are some tips for helping make the move easier for your family.

1. Keep structure amidst the confusion and disorder.

Tighten up on meal times, bedtime routines, and other traditions that give structure and stability to your family life. Stay home and skip the babysitters for a while. Let some important things remain stable while the earth moves beneath their feet.

2. Expect regression.

When we`re stressed, we retreat to former times to regain stability. And our kids do too! You can expect a newly potty-trained child to relapse, little ones creeping into your bed at night, more tears,maybe picky eating. Loosen up on these things. They`ll go away once things settle down.

3. Acknowledge both negative and positive feelings.

You, too, will be having them. There`s this you`ll miss, and this to look forward to. The old town had an amusement park, but this one has a great children`s museum. You`ll miss the snow, but now the beach is an hour away. Ambivalent feelings are typical of any transition. Help your child look forward to good, new things while they say good-bye, sadly, to things and people they`ll miss. Share your joy in your beautiful new home, and your frustration in

not knowing where the light switches are, or the ice cream store.

4. Orient to the way your child thinks.

When we moved when my older son was 6, we left him with my aunt and uncle while we went to look for the new house. A naturally outgoing child, he was upset until he learned we`d be leaving the family dog there too. Children look at things differently. In his mind, he knew we`d come back for the dog. He was calmed. This is akin to the nursery school teacher who told me to bring a handkerchief and leave it with my crying younger son. Not, she said, as a wubby, but "because he knows you`ll come back for a

personal item."

5. Be concrete and talk about details.

Help the child see what it will mean to them, depending upon sevelopmental age and temperament. With a preschooler, let him help you pack up a treasured item in a box, seal it up, move it around in a wagon, then return it, open it up and take the treasured thing out and put it back where it came from. This is an experiential lesson that what we pack up doesn`t disappear forever. Children are concerned about their possessions, just like we are. Also they displace their general anxiety onto something concrete like that because they have no other way to express it.

With a toddler, use the doll house and dolls and toy cars to show what will happen. Read books about moving. "Mallory`s Moving and her Monkey is Missing" ( ) is a good one.

6. Instead of focusing on logistics, focus on people and feelings.

The move will get accomplished. Take time to deal with the

emotional aspects and it will pay off in the long run. It`s a lot more important. This is just one of many transitions your family will go through, and how you handle it will have repercussions in the future. All transitions bring ambivalent emotions and fears and fantasies about the future, which is unknown. You`ll grow through this as a family.

7. Make a trial run if you possibly can.

Go visit the new place with your children. Show them where

their new room will be (let them decorate it if possible). Visit their school. Meet the neighbors. Point out the "same things" like the DQ and McDonalds. Look up sports and scouts programs. Show them where the new movie theater is.

8. Expect an adjustment period at school.

Children learn best in a comfortable emotional environment, and a move is stressful. It will take them a while to get acclimated. Observe when you pick them up, or talk with them to find out if they`re making a satisfactory social adjustment. According to research one of the highest emotional intelligence competencies is being able to break into an already formed group. Be compassionate.Help them learn the skills. (You may be going through the same

thing yourself!)

9. If not you, then who?

We`ve lost track of who brings the homemade cake over - the old neighbor, or the new one. Don`t ask for whom the bell tolls -- let your children choose a cake, bake it together, and carry it over to meet the new folks. Or have an open house and invite the other families over.

10. Saying good-bye precedes saying hello.

Let your child have a going away party with their friends, and then a new party in the new place. We moved a lot when my oldest son was growing up, though usually in the summer, and fortunately he had a mid-October birthday. By that time we knew the names and faces of the other kids in the class and then could have everyone over for a birthday party and get him well into the loop. Worked great.

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers coaching and Internet courses in emotional intelligence. It`s more important to your health, happiness and success than IQ and it can be learned. Visit her on the web at and for FREE ezine, FREE coaching session, FREE Strengths course.

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