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How do you talk to children about earthquakes?




This morning’s earthquake in southeast Australia came as a shock to everyone.

For children, the range of responses can vary from indifference to amusement to fear.

So we asked child psychologist Kate Evans for her advice on talking to your child about the earthquake.


Is it normal for my child to feel afraid?

Most Australians had never experienced an earthquake of this magnitude before, and some children did not know what the earthquake was like before this morning.

Ms Evans says that because they have experienced such trauma, it is understandable for your child to feel insecure, confused and anxious.

“Evolutionarily speaking, it’s normal to have these feelings when unexpected events happen. It’s really important for parents to be okay with hearing these feelings from their children.”

The key, she says, is “not shutting them down, being open to listening and understanding those feelings.”

You could say, “That was a surprise, and it was a little scary, right? My mom was a little scared too, but we’re all safe and okay.”

What do I say to my child?

Ms. Evans says how you approach the subject will depend on your child.

Some children will be more expressive, and will come to you with specific questions, or they will be able to name how they feel.

Other children may be more introverted or younger and less able to express themselves.

Even if your child doesn’t mention the earthquake with you, Ms. Evans says it’s worth checking in with him by explaining what happened with clear information.

She advises saying something like, “That was an earthquake. And when we have earthquakes, sometimes we feel the vibration and things can move in our house.”


If your child is curious, she says succinctly that explaining plate tectonics and the science behind the causes of earthquakes can help children feel less anxious.

Once you explain what happened, she says it’s important to get back to the fact that everyone in your family is safe, and that everything will be fine.

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What if they ask questions that I can’t answer?

If your child asks questions such as “Why is this happening to us?” or “What does this mean?” Ms. Evans says it’s a good idea not to have a full answer.

‘I’ll make it and go, ‘Yeah, it’s unusual for us, isn’t it?’ We cannot predict when an earthquake will occur. But what we do know is that we haven’t encountered them often in the past. They are very rare. “

She says it’s important to empathize with their fear, and to make sure your child feels that you understand why they are worried.

You could say, “It’s fine to be concerned, but we adults know how to manage these things, and we will keep you safe.”

How big are earthquakes in Australia?

Australia has only been shaken by devastating earthquakes like the earthquakes that occur today about twice a year. Here’s how.

Read moreWhat should I avoid telling my child?

During common natural disasters such as forest fires or floods, it can be helpful to make a plan with your child for what to do if they recur.

But given the rarity of serious earthquakes in Australia, Evans says the plan is unnecessary, and best avoided.

When giving information to your child, she says it’s important to make sure it’s age appropriate.

“You don’t want to be on the internet in front of the kids, looking up ‘what happens when earthquakes happen’ and there are all these pictures of collapsed buildings.”

If they’ve already seen this kind of image, you can remind them that earthquakes in Australia usually result in “maybe a cup falls off the side of the table, or your things roll off the shelves.”

She also advises against watching or listening to news reports about the earthquake in front of your children.


What if my baby can’t sleep tonight?

If your child is afraid to sleep tonight, or wakes up with nightmares, Ms Evans says it’s important to provide extra rest, and reassure him of how rare earthquakes are in Australia.

“Go back to how unusual this was.

“Just remind them that this isn’t something that happens often, and you don’t have to worry about it every day.

Empathize with your children, answer any questions they have, and validate how they feel.

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