As parents, we frequently deal with questions and situations that seem beyond our pay grade when it comes to a response. When we thought about children, we didn’t necessarily think about how to deal with them when it came to talking about death. It almost seems counter-intuitive to try to have a discussion with them about death. Children represent new life in our world and we need to talk to them about death?!?! Why didn’t that appear in the fine print about what it means to have a baby?
I remember late night feedings and how to change a diaper being there but I don’t remember the death discussion being listed there. How in the world can you begin that talk? And in the back of your mind, you are hoping to bluff your way through and pray that there will not be another hard discussion to have anytime soon. (Isn’t it odd that we thought our parents knew it all? Ha!)
Unfortunately, you know in your heart of hearts that there will be. You are already trying to pretend that you do not know about the birds and the bees. (Bees just make honey right?) And with every year that goes by, there comes another challenging conversation you need to have. They come at you more quickly than you can possibly imagine. Just when you feel like you have sufficiently answered one hard question, another comes up. And if you are the dad in the family like me, your whole job comes from being supportive and making sure that your family feels safe and secure. So, answering those tough questions to help your children feel safe comes with the territory. (And telling your child to ask their mother is not a good answer.) But what do you do when the whole world feels unsafe?
Welcome To The CLNN World
As I have no interest in turning this into a political blog, I won’t get into the politics of things. What I will say is that most news media should be calling themselves CLNN (The Chicken Little News Network.) As news has become more about the sensational and less about the reflective, there is always some anchor out there willing to tell you that you are all going to die tomorrow unless you follow some piece of advice that only they are qualified to give you. It becomes crazy enough when we as adults have to deal with this insane world around us. It becomes a whole other matter when children come face to face with it. As we all know, they are sponges and will internalize all of this negative data. (And as all divorced parents know, some will blame themselves for it.)
The more information our children receive, the less secure they feel. And kids who feel out of control about the world tend to act in irrational ways that are out of control. All this happens before we even deal with news events that are truly scary. From earthquakes that level cities, to tsunamis that wipe entire villages off the map, there are plenty of real things in the world of which to be frightened. We do not need to add boogie men to the list of things that are scary.
What To Do About A Hurricane?
Which leads me to the latest of those natural disasters that just struck the Texas coast in the United States. Hurricane Harvey terrorized the Texas coastline and turned the city of Houston into a swamp. It left damage in its wake that seems unimaginable. To see this and tell our kids to find the bright side of things seem narrow minded. There is no such thing as a good Hurricane. So what do we tell them to do? How can we as parents help them through this time? There doesn’t seem to be a simple answer. But there are things that you can do to make the situation seem less scary.
First, admit that you don’t have answers to all of the world’s questions. This is not only good advice for you in general. But it will make it easier so that when you do come to another more important question that you have difficulty answering, that your kids will not think it’s the end of the world. Second, project security. Let them know that while you do not understand everything, things will turn out right in the end.
Show them people helping other people out. Explain that with all of these amazing people coming to assist that the people will get assistance they badly need. And lastly, figure out ways that you can get your kids involved in helping these people in need. The easiest thing to do in times of crisis is to look desperate. But that helps no one. And it gets nothing done. So helping your kids find constructive things to do when the world seems chaotic helps them think constructively in times of difficulty.
While the first two are important, I am going to spend this post focusing on the last three things that we can do with our kids to help them deal with times of trouble. And specifically, I’m going to focus on how kids can help out the people of Houston going through this horrific time. Because they certainly need help, however we can help them. 43 inches of rain in days is just insane. No drainage system will stand up to that. So here are 5 things our kids can do to help others, and specifically the people of Houston, in times of trouble.
5 Things Our Kids Can Do To Help People In Need (Specifically Houston)
Put Together Home Care Packages
The great thing about this is that it is a whole activity you can do with your kids. First, have them list all of the things they think they would need from day to day. And then put together packages of the things that they can give to other kids. Whether it’s some special toy, a tooth brush, or little crafts and things for the kids there, they can be involved in helping these people out in a tangible way. Have them write a letter as well to go with the box so that it’s more personal. Maybe they get a pen pal out of it.
Donate Clothing –
Have them go through their closets and find some clothes that they aren’t going to wear any more. Can you imagine losing whole wardrobes worth of clothes as the clothes get moldy and rot because of the flooding? It would be hard to imagine losing my whole closet all at once. Talk to your kids about how you will be helping these people out. They might get a little more draconian when it comes to finding clothing that they don’t need. If you have multiple children, make a game of it and treat a child to ice cream who has the most amount of clothes they are willing to give up. And their room gets a little cleaner as a result. It’s a win win.
Donate Money –
Have the kids go through their piggy banks or keep back some of their allowance to give to the people in Houston. Yes, money is an easy thing to think about giving, and given that kids are usually given money, it may not seem as important. But here, have them do something to earn the money. Have them sell lemonade, or wash cars. Make them work for it but feel like they are being constructive while doing it. And last but not least, talk to them about researching who they give money to. Talk to them about wanting to make sure the money goes directly to the people in need for help and not to pay a bunch of office staff while the people only get a dime for every dollar donated. And then do research with them on it. It will be a whole object lesson.
Donate Food –
If you have extra cans of food around the house, or you are just feeling generous and wish to get a few more, take your kids as a scavenger hunt for various food things that people might need. This not only works as helping out the families in dire need of edible food, but it helps your kids to think about what kinds of things they would need in case of an emergency around the house. As I live in California, it makes me think about Earthquake preparedness and the things I would need around in case of an emergency around here. What things should I have in my car should I get stranded somewhere. Things like that. This encourages both generosity and teaches kids good lessons for the future.
Collect School Supplies To Donate To Classrooms –
People don’t think about it much, but schools will be necessary centers in the coming months for displaced students and families. Many of these school supplies have been decimated by the Hurricane. Talk to your kids about schools being community centers and help centers for these families. And in the aftermath of the storm, schools have been severely affected.
Not only that, but they need schools as shelters for misplaced students in the coming months. Helping out these schools will be an important task. I would have them create at least a back pack or two of individual school supplies. Go to a school supply center like Target and pick out a back pack and have your kids fill it with school supplies for the year. Have your child write a note in the backpack as well to personalize it and tell the people receiving these supplies that they are in our thoughts.
I think that with doing these five things, you will be able to frame what the child sees about the disaster, and realize that there hundreds and thousands of people out there willing to aid in time of crisis. I know that it’s really easy to get down on humanity right now, but seeing people come to other people’s aid can make it so much easier on your children. And like I said, you can make lessons out of this which will impact them for the rest of their lives. Yes Hurricanes can be horrific. But they can also show the beauty of the human spirit as well. Give your kids some hope by teaching them that giving can be so much more rewarding that receiving. I know we are supposed to learn this lesson every Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanzaa, but it’s a lesson that’s good all year long.
Continue The Conversation –
I would love to hear if you have any ideas about how you show your kids to show love and concern to people in need, especially to the people in Houston right now. What object lessons do you have? And what ways have you given to those in need? If you don’t have kids but still have a heart for the people who have been displaced, please try one of these ideas, and check in with the American Red Cross about donating.
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life