As Hurricane Harvey continues to threaten Texas and Louisiana, kids from around the country are reeling from the storm’s emotional effects. Here, we offer tips on how to calm kids — and how they can learn to practice kindness and empathy themselves, even in the face of tragedy.

 

How to talk to your kids about Hurricane Harvey

Acknowledge their feelings.

If they feel scared or sad, let them know that that’s an understandable reaction, and that a lot of people feel that way.

 

Ask what they’ve heard and answer any questions they may have.

Sometimes kids get misinformation or their imaginations make a bad situation seem even worse. Be honest but brief and age appropriate with what you share. Explain that the hurricane is a natural but rare event and no one’s fault.

 

Reassure them that no matter what happens, you’ll always do everything you can to keep them safe.

Talk to them about your own emergency plan. Or, if you don’t have one, make one, get an emergency kit together — and then talk about it.

 

Spend more time bonding with them.

Plan for longer bedtimes and more family and cuddle time for a while to help kids feel secure.

 

Tell them about the helpers.

When he was a kid, Mister Rogers’ mom told him to look for the helpers whenever there was a tragedy, because that’s how you know there’s hope. Tell your kid about the rescue teams going out to save people, the medical professionals tending to the injured, the volunteers collecting donations. Tell them about the furniture business owner who opened his stores as shelters. Tell them about the “Texas Navy” — the outpouring of private citizens heading into the disaster area in boats to rescue strangers. Finally, share some ideas about how they can show compassion by becoming helpers too.

 

How kids can help

Raise money for charity.

Many charities have already received so many supplies that they don’t have room for more, but need monetary donations to get them past the initial demand for help. Kids can help by holding their own fundraiser selling lemonade, cookies or crafts, or even just setting up a donation booth collecting spare change from passers-by. Here are a few charities they might consider: Save the Children, Feeding TexasAnimal Defense League of Texas, or Texas Children’s Hospital.

If you live in the area, donate time with your family once the storm has passed.

Assisting with cleanup, helping to deliver food, or fostering displaced pets can help kids feel more in control and ultimately heal.

Cuddling with the Q-Time Buddy or another stuffed animal helps many kids feel calmer.