Monday, January 18, 2010

Helping Kids Help Haiti

Like all of you, I'm sure, I've been horrified this past week by the images of death and destruction coming out of Haiti. Even my grown children are finding those images hard to deal with; their reactions range from tears to "turn it off -- now!" If adults can't bear to watch the devastation, how hard must all this live coverage be on our children?

It occurs to me that in this era of instantaneous images, kids often are immersed in disasters as they occur, making a tsunami in Samoa or an earthquake in Haiti seem as up-close-and-personal as the local weather. Our children no longer are just watching news reports of far-away disasters; they are virtually experiencing them, literally watching as victims suffer and die. How can we -- as parents and teachers -- help them cope?

Hopefully, the resources below will help you not only find the best ways to talk to our children about the earthquake in Haiti, but also provide you with lessons and activities that will help our children reach out to its victims.

FEMA for Kids includes lots of information for kids on weather-related disasters, including where such disasters are most likely to occur. The section for parents and teachers includes lessons and activities on disaster safety and preparedness.

Helping Children Cope With Natural Disasters from the National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center offers a list of organizations that can provide information for adults working with children who have experienced traumatic events associated with natural disasters.

Helping Children Cope With Loss, Death, and Grief is a printable list of excellent tips for parents and teachers from the National Association of School Psychologists.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Tips for Talking About Disasters includes a number of pdfs, ranging from "Questions to Help Children Talk About a Disaster" to "Marking Disaster Anniversaries in the Clasroom." All provide excellent suggestions for appropriate home or classroom lessons and activities.

You don't have to be Catholic to utilize the lesson plans, simulation activities, prayer services, stories, and Web links at Going Global With Youth, an initiative of Catholic Relief Services (Click "Resources for Catholic Educators and Youth Ministers"). Although most of the lessons and activities are more appropriate to church-based youth groups, many can be adapted for classroom use.

Reading Rockets' article It Happened Over There: Understanding and Empathy Through Children's Books explains how parents and educators can use books to talk with kids about natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti -- and offers suggestions for children's books and Web sites about Haiti and about earthquakes.

Helping Our Children in Difficult Times -- featuring Marc Brown's Arthur -- is primarily geared to parents of very young children; preschool and primary teachers might find this a helpful printable to send home with students.

CBS News provides full coverage of the disaster in Haiti, as well as advice from psychotherapist Robi Ludwig on How to Talk to Kids About Haiti. The site also includes an extensive list of charitable organizations providing aid to Haiti.

KidzWorld offers a somewhat more manageable list of ten charitable organizations accepting donations for earthquake victims in Haiti.

In Helping a Child Comprehend and Cope With Catastrophe, Charlotte Reznick, an associate clinical professor of psychology at UCLA, provides 13 tips for helping kids cope with the devastation in Haiti, as well as several suggestions for ways kids can raise money to donate to disaster victims.

You'll find more fundraising suggestions for kids at How Kids Can Help Kids in Haiti. Help Your Kids Help Haiti offers even more quick and easy fundraising activities appropriate for kids at school or at home.

If you know of another organization, Web site, or resource for teachers, parents, and kids struggling to understand the disaster in Haiti and/or help the victims, please click Post A Comment to share your suggestion.

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