Health & Spirit

Talking to kids about traumas and disasters

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

In the 2004 movie "Into the Storm" a tornado devastates a high-school community. As the townspeople work to rebuild their connections, they find hope and security. Good for them. But in the real world, with all the deadly storms and tragic shootings that have happened lately, many parents are struggling to help their children cope. Fortunately, there are effective ways to help your kids deal with it all.

Whether a disaster/trauma has happened to your family or is in the news, the Red Cross and FEMA suggest limiting children's exposure to media coverage of events and listening carefully to your kids' worries.

Kids under age 5: They may have nightmares or even regress and start bed-wetting or thumb-sucking. Don't be critical. Offer reassurance that the family is now safe. Don't replay blow-by-blow info on the disaster.

Children 5-11: They may become aggressive or withdraw from normal activities. Give them time to find the words to express their feelings. Reassure them that you're there for them.

Teens: They may rebel, opt for risk-taking behaviors or have trouble sleeping. Listen; ask about their feelings. Patience!

FEMA also suggests that, as a family, you create a disaster plan to assure kids you're prepared come what may.

Download: Check out the free app Helping Kids Cope from UCLA National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, at iTunes or the Google Play store.

Tune in: Sesame Street -- with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- is working to help kids handle disasters. Cookie Monster can teach deep breathing to handle stress, etc.


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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