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Coaching kids through tragedy helping Haiti

The tragedy in Haiti is one that will involve aftershocks in so many ways. The efforts to rebuild will take years, and while the devastation is far away geographically, the crushing images are as close as our family rooms. I wanted to pass along some resources for fellow parents in coaching our kids through tragedy, and also suggesting some kid-friendly ways we can help the families in Haiti.

First, I loved these tips from World Vision US, a relief organization with hundreds of people helping in Haiti. Here are some tips; the full list is available at

1. Start by listening. Find out what your kids already know. You can then respond in an age-appropriate way. The aim is not to worry them with the devastating details, but to protect them from misinformation they may have heard from friends or disturbing images they may have seen on television.

2. If you don't know the answer, admit it. If your child asks a question that you can't answer, tell them so, and then do some research to try and help them sort it out. If they ask "Why did this have to happen?" don't be afraid to say "I don't know." If you are part of a faith community, the reassurance offered there can be invaluable in helping your child sort through the awful truth that awful things happen.

3. Concentrate on making them feel safe. When tragedies occur, children wonder if the same event could happen in their hometown. If it was an act of nature that could not be repeated in your area, tell children that. Placing themselves in the situations of victims is not all bad — it is a sign of empathy, an essential life skill, but watch for signs of excessive worrying.

4. Model involvement and compassion. Tell your child that, as a family, you will be helping the people in Haiti by giving a donation to a reputable charity.

5. Give your child a chance to be involved. Being involved in the solution will help relieve some of their anxiety. Invite them to contribute to the family's gift by giving something out of their piggy bank.

Editor's note: There are lots of ways to help, and I encourage finding age-appropriate ways for kids to feel like they're making a difference. Here are some ideas:

The American Red Cross has a great link where you can read quick descriptions of different relief efforts and donate according to what looks best to you.

A fabulous kid-oriented way to help just came across my desk from Laurie F., Mom Since 1998 (MS'98): Check out FreeRice your kids answer questions, and for each correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to those in need. The donations are currently going to Haiti. According to FreeRice, a nonprofit site, "Though 10 grains of rice may seem like a small amount, it is important to remember that while you are playing, so are thousands of other people at the same time. It is everyone together that makes the difference."

Check out your local TV station Web sites many have compiled local volunteer opportunities to give kids a hands-on way to help.

For the full post with more details and links on this topic, including a video on how to talk to kids about tragedy, visit

Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site,, and blog, Available 24/7, just like Moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.