Your 5 3/4-year-old: Understanding disasters

Your 5 3/4-year-old: Understanding disasters

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Your 5-year-old now

Young kids are often better attuned to the outside world than we give them credit for. They hear the news on the radio in the car or see it on television. They overhear parents talking. They talk to one another.

When a disaster strikes, whether natural or man-made, your child may experience many distressed feelings. This is true even if she's ordinarily well adjusted and happy. In fact, the beginning of elementary school is considered one of the times when a child is especially vulnerable to worry over these kinds of headlines, because it's already a season of change and uncertainty in her world.

Stay attuned for changes in your child's behavior and reassure her by responding to her questions candidly. Knowledge is power that helps to reverse her uncertainty.

Probe to see exactly what she's worried about. She may not understand that the hurricane in the news landed hundreds of miles away. News about a war may make her concerned for her father who is traveling on business, even if he's nowhere near the country where the fighting is taking place.

At the same time, try to shield your child from overexposure to the news about crises. When a news program shows the same footage over and over, it may look to your child as if the event is happening new each time.

Your life now

As your child zooms into new situations — taking you along with her — it's easy to sometimes feel like you can't keep up. Are you making the right decisions? Enforcing the rules consistently? Did you handle that meltdown at the birthday party the right way?

It helps to know that everybody second-guesses their parenting at times. And most parents are their own worst critics. You may take one look at your messy house and mound of laundry — or make one visit to a fast-food drive-through for dinner — and feel like a flop.

Instead of beating yourself up, focus on all the things that are going well in terms of your child's well-being and development. It's the big picture that counts.

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