The deadly earthquake in Morocco is in every headline at the moment, shocking the entire world. But how do you approach talking about the topic with your kids?
The recent events in Morocco are beyond heartbreaking and difficult for anyone to comprehend, let alone our kids. While news outlets worldwide are reporting on this unimaginable tragedy, it’s likely our kids will have seen the headlines. If they do, what do we do about it? How do you broach talking about such a distressing topic to them?
Tips on talking to kids about the Morocco earthquake (and other distressing events)
1. Make time to talk about what’s going on
Even if you haven’t had any discussions about what happened, your kids may have heard about the earthquake through the media or from classmates. Their version/s of the event may differ from what has been reported. Assure them that it’s okay to talk about sad or scary events, even if those events do not directly impact them. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Answering their queries is an opportune time to render support as your kids begin to understand the crisis as well as the responses to it.
This leads us to the next point…
2. Explain honestly but not explicitly
Depending on your child’s age, there are ways to divulge information about the earthquake without going into specifics. Keep it brief and simple for the littlies as it could be quite difficult and scary for them to comprehend. You don’t have to bring the topic up unless they ask you or you overhear them talking about it.
Tweens and teens are more likely to know about the earthquake. Be honest and have direct conversations with them, answer their questions, and listen to what they have to say. Remind them to communicate their feelings with someone they trust.
3. Reassure them that they are safe
Reassure your kids but refrain from telling them that this incident is “an anomaly” and “unlikely to happen here”; it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than make assumptions. Let your kids talk about their feelings when they’re ready, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately. Validate your children’s emotions.
Also, share your feelings about what’s going on. Admit that you’re feeling sad and helpless. This lets your kids know they are not alone in dealing with their feelings and fears.
4. Observe your child’s emotional state
If your children are not ready to talk about their feelings about distressing news, it’s okay. Or, they may not be able or even want to express their emotions verbally. Be patient and give them the space they need until they’re ready. In the meantime, continue to observe them. Changes in behaviour, appetite and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort when they become aware of sad or shocking news. In most cases, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, if they still exhibit signs of anxiety and/or depression over time, speak with a healthcare or mental health professional for guidance.
5. Limit exposure to news coverage
This is an arduous task to handle, seeing as the earthquake is still being reported in the news and media. Did you know that according to research, some children believe that the events are reoccurring every time they see a television replay of the news footage? So folks, be mindful when trying to catch up with the news and even when having conversations about the tragedy. Or better yet, only do it when you know the little people are not around.
6. Maintain your routines
Get plenty of rest, eat regularly, and continue doing fun things like arts & crafts, spending time outdoors, or even reading. Remember that kids still need to be kids! Motivate them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Keeping to a regular schedule maintains the semblance of normalcy in your life.
Also, don’t skimp on physical affection. Hugs and kisses go a long way towards providing inner security. Kiddos will feel like you’re protecting them from the outside world. And that’s what us parents always want to do for our children, right?
7. Explain the facts when it comes to natural disasters
Take the opportunity to answer their questions and raise awareness about natural disasters such as earthquakes. Discussing the topic will help children understand the event and process the news.
The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) states that Singapore is situated outside an earthquake zone. But large earthquakes occurring in nearby regions can be felt in the form of vibrations or tremors in Singapore. The last time tremors were felt in Singapore was when an earthquake 6.0 in magnitude struck Northern Sumatra on 25 February 2022.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force has created an SCDF emergency handbook which details advice in the rare instance that Singapore was to experience an earthquake. Sharing all this information with your kids could be overwhelming and scary, but, as a parent, understanding the process and having a level of awareness of what to do can help you better prepare to answer children’s questions on what would happen if we ever faced such a scenario. Kids are often reassured when they know there’s a plan in place.
That said, if you’re unsure what you would do and can’t answer their questions, it’s fine to be honest and admit this. You can use the news as a learning opportunity to find the answers as a family and offer that level of reassurance and preparedness your kids might need.
Our hearts go out to all the families affected by the aftermath of the earthquakes in Morocco. Find out more about how to help here.