Rosie to the Rescue: How Do You Explain a Hurricane to Kids?
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I’m left answering lots of questions from my 4-year-old. We live in New York City, and have a beach house on the Jersey shore. My husband and I went into the storm with optimism, minimizing the threat of a hurricane and the possible damage, because I simply didn’t want my big boy to worry. So while we talked a little about the winds and the waves, we focused more on the fact that we’d be able to stay home, play, and bake plenty of cookies. Still, with the nonstop reporting that we were all hooked to during the last few days, he witnessed a lot of the devastation on TV. We then received the news that we were going to lose our beach house, due to the water surge on the coast. So my son heard us talking extensively to neighbors, friends, and family.
Knowing how attached my son was to the house, I decided to address this disaster and use it as an opportunity to talk about what really matters. It’s so easy to focus on the disappearance of things and the overwhelming loss so many are feeling today, as they have lost their homes, and for some, so much more. My son’s focus was on what matters in his 4-year-old world: his favorite toys that he knew were washed away. So we talked (and talked) that while we were sad about losing these things, what is important, what truly matters, is that our friends and family are safe.
This opportunity reminded me not to underestimate the ability of a child to understand what’s going on around him, and to take on and feel the emotions that we’re going through, no matter how hard we try to hide them. I remembered it’s always better to talk to children so they understand what’s really happening, instead of letting their beautiful and wild imaginations fill in the blanks. This morning my son is a secure little boy knowing exactly what’s happened to our home and his toys, not worried about what he is seeing and hearing, because he understands what is truly important — and is back to playing search-and-rescue with his fireman figurines, which I’m sure is his way of working through his emotions about all that’s happened. So if I can share anything from my personal experience this week, it’s to protect your children, but be brave and answer their questions, empower them with the understanding of their environment, and most of all hold them close. If Sandy has brought any good, it’s to remind us what is really important.