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Explaining the Haitian crisis to children

On Tuesday, January 12, a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean country Haiti. The epicenter was about 10 miles southwest of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. According to media reports, approximately 3 million people (one-third of Haiti's population) were affected by the quake.

When disaster strikes, it can be difficult to explain the situation to your children. Depending on their age, they may not understand the event or the affect it will have on the people who live there. So, what do you tell your children about the images they see on TV or online of the Haiti earthquake situation?

Use these tips to help explain the situation to your children.

Talk at their level
Use language that they understand. If your children do not understand what earthquakes are, saying “There was a large earthquake,” is not going to help explain what caused the destruction. If your children are old enough to understand what earthquakes are, use this as a science teaching moment. Sites like the U.S. Geological Society’s explain earthquakes in an easy and fun way.

Be honest
Do not sugarcoat the tragedy. Talk to your children about how difficult it is for the people of Haiti to do the things that your family does daily, such has turn on the water for baths or cooking. Explain how the earthquake destroyed homes and schools. Ask your children how they would feel if your family’s home was damaged.

Find a way to help
Empower your children to help others. There are many organizations, such as Save the Children and Yéle Haiti, requesting support in their effort to help the people of Haiti. Let your children decide how your family will contribute to the cause. When choosing an organization to support, make sure it is a well known organization with experience dealing with such disasters. CNN has compiled a good list of organizations to choose from.