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How to Talk to Your Kids

Do you need help talking to your kids about the disaster in Nepal? These tips will help you.

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The stories, images, and videos coming out of Nepal following the April 25th earthquake are everywhere in the media. Children who see these photos and videos may have a variety of reactions including fear, confusion, and sadness. Below are guidelines for parents to help children process this information.

How to Talk With Kids About the Earthquake in Nepal

Ask them what they've seen and how they feel about it

Before you say anything, it's good to know what your child has actually seen and how he or she is reacting to it. You know your child better than anyone, and how he talks (or doesn't talk) about it should reveal how the news is affecting him.

If she hasn't seen any news about it and isn't likely to, use your judgment as a parent to decide whether to approach the subject. If she does have questions, answer them as they come up. Don't give her more information than necessary. If and when she's ready to know more, she'll ask.

Also, check in with your child's teacher to find out whether they have talked about the events in school. Your child will benefit from hearing consistent messages at home and in the classroom.

Remind them that the news doesn't show everything

The news media focus on images of death and destruction in part because they attract people's attention. They tend to show the same scary images and video again and again, especially on 24-hour cable news such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. But children need to understand that news cameras and reporters can only show a small part of what's going on in a city where a natural disaster has occurred.

If your child is especially saddened by the images from Nepal, remind him that there are many Nepalis who are helping each other and that rescue workers, relatives, neighbors and friends are trying to take care of those who are injured. We don't always see images of these hopeful aspects, because news media over-emphasize the sad, scary, and the dramatic.

Be conscious of your own information habits

Adults model behavior for children whether we mean to or not, and this includes our media habits. If you regularly keep cable news on as background noise at home, be aware that your child may not be tuning it out. Likewise, if you have a smartphone, laptop, or tablet that you're constantly refreshing with more news, your child may perceive the situation as more urgent than it really is.

In general, be aware of the amount of disaster coverage your child is seeing in the media. Depending on her age, either limit the time in front of the disaster coverage or switch off the screens entirely and help her focus on something else.

Also be aware of your conversations with other adults that may be overheard by your child. Kids are always listening, and your opinions and speculation about the events can affect them as much (if not more so) as what they encounter on screens.

Provide geographical context

Images and videos of violence and trauma can make anyone -- children and adults alike -- feel like the events are much closer to them than they really are. Providing geographical context can help them understand that the pictures and videos may feel close, but the events occurred nowhere near them. It may be helpful to consult a world map with your child as you help her orient herself in relation to Nepal.

Nepal is a small country about the size of Florida, and it's located near India and China on the continent of Asia. It is a nation of 28 million people, which is less than one-tenth the population of the U.S. Nepal is on the other side of the earth from North America, and you would have to travel at top speed in an airplane for around 20 hours to reach it. When the earthquake happened in Nepal, we in the U.S. did not and could not feel anything this far away.

Explore the science with them

The U.S. Geological Survey has a kid-friendly explanation of earthquakes at

It may comfort your child to know how infrequent severe earthquakes are. For example, geologists estimate that the last major earthquake to hit Kathmandu, Nepal occurred nearly 80 years ago. Minor earthquakes are more common than we might imagine, and the vast majority are not even felt by people. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that about one million earthquakes occur around the world every year, but most are of such small magnitude that they are undetected by humans.

Explain the danger as it relates to them

People's safety inside buildings -- such as homes or schools -- is different in Nepal because most of their buildings are older and made differently than ours are. Most of the people in Nepal are much, much poorer than people in the U.S., and they don't have the money or materials to make their homes safer.

Earthquakes happen in the U.S., as well. But cities that face a risk of earthquakes have rules about how houses and schools must be built to make them more sturdy. Those rules, combined with the fact that we have more money to spend on our buildings, make them safer.

Another factor that makes natural disasters riskier in countries like Nepal is population density. The population density of that nation is more than 5 times that of the U.S. That means that in one space -- say a house or an apartment building -- there are five times as many people living there as there would be in the U.S. Because there are more people living in one space, more are likely to be hurt or killed when a building is damaged in an earthquake.

In part because of these reasons, a severe earthquake is less dangerous to people in the U.S. than it is in Nepal. When a quake with a magnitude of 6.9 occurred near San Francisco, California in 1989, 63 people were killed. Compare that to the quake in Nepal, which had a similar magnitude of 7.8 and has killed more than 4,000 people. Both quakes made the ground move and shook buildings, but the buildings in the U.S. were designed to withstand more without collapsing.

Help them feel prepared

Having an emergency plan for your family can help your child feel more secure, as long as it doesn't exaggerate the likelihood of a natural disaster occurring. If you live in a place where earthquakes are a risk, look up emergency preparedness guides with your child. Make a plan for what she should do -- whether she is at home or elsewhere -- if an earthquake happens. Check with your child's teacher to see if her school has a plan in place, and make sure she understands it.

Save the Children has some great resources.

Advise older children to verify social media content

Content posted on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may be less credible because no editors or fact-checkers filter the information. Older children accessing such platforms should be aware of the need to verify information through another source. Speculation and misinformation can spread rapidly on social media in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Twitter feeds by reputable journalists are generally reliable, but statements and even photos from unfamiliar sources should be checked against reporting by established international news organizations such as The New York Times and the BBC.



The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) is a professional association for educators, academics, activists, and students with a passion for understanding how the media we use and create affect our lives and the lives of others in our communities and in the world. The NAMLE vision is to help individuals of all ages develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression that they need to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and active citizens in today's world.

the Children

Save the Children

Save the Children is an international non-governmental organization that promotes children's rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries. Since 1919, we've been fighting for children's rights, saving their lives and providing hope for brighter futures.

Save the Children invests in childhood -- every day, in times of crisis and for our future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. By transforming children's lives now, we change the course of their future and ours.


Population density and income for U.S. and Nepal:

Florida land area:

Nepal land area:

San Francisco 1989 earthquake:

Nepal earthquake magnitude and frequency:

Death toll of Nepal earthquake:

Global earthquake frequency:

Resources provided by the National Association for Media Literacy Education with input from Save the Children.