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          Dealing with the Tragedy in Haiti

          January 25, 2010

          Citizens the world over have been impacted by the tragedy in Haiti ” including those thousands of miles away from the loss and destruction. Whether it’s a child or an adult who’s having trouble coping with the disaster, Dr. Phil has advice for getting through tough times.

          Be abstract in helping kids understand the disaster.
          Many concerned parents are wondering what to say to their children about the devastation. The younger your children are, the more abstract you need to be in talking about what has happened, because they don’t have an ability to understand the concept of death or the gravity of the situation. If your child is 4 or 5 years old and sees an image on television, they’re not going to be particularly inquisitive about it, so there’s no need to initiate a talk about it. “I don’t think it’s healthy to sit down and talk with them because there’s really nothing they can do about it, and it’s difficult for them ” and for all of us ” to get a grasp of what’s happened,” Dr. Phil says. “One of my key issues with children is you don’t let them feel a sense of accountability for matters over which they have no control.”

          However, if your young child does ask about something they’ve seen on TV, respond using age-appropriate references and don’t focus too much on the details of the tragedy. Deal with what to do now that it’s over. Children feel so much safer, so much more in control and less anxious when they feel like there is something they can do to contribute. Help your children feel a sense of empowerment by emptying their piggy banks, starting a school fundraiser, and getting them involved in moving forward. Explain, for example, “Something terrible has happened, but let’s think about how we can help other people who are having a hard time.” If your child fears for his own safety, comfort and assure him that you are doing everything you can to protect him, but be careful not to overreact because the feelings may be transient.

          Help teens find meaning in tragedy.
          Teens may be bombarded by graphic images on TV and the Internet. While it’s good for them to have constructive awareness of what’s going on in the world, they can benefit most by feeling that they can make a difference. Answer your teens’ questions, and encourage them to donate or raise money to contribute to Haitian relief efforts. They may want to initiate a bake sale or a car wash at their school ” something that gives them a sense of empowerment that comes with feeling that they are making a difference.

          Adults can make a difference by getting involved.
          Don’t ignore your feelings. This tragic loss of life has hit everyone hard. Get involved and make a difference. You will find a sense of peace and power by not taking life for granted and doing what you can to make certain that you are giving to those in need. You may think that giving even just a dollar doesn’t make a difference but it does. It adds up and the difference is huge. The needs won’t go away when the headlines do. Mark you calendars and check with your favorite charity once a month. Stay involved.

          To donate to the American Red Cross’ International Response Fund, click here.

          Partners in Health has set up a fund for Dr. Phil viewers to donate money specifically for the purchase of tents and bedding for the people who have been made homeless by the earthquake. To donate to Partners in Health, click here.

          To donate to UNICEF, click here.

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