Photo Credit: Joe Polillio, Getty Images
While it's often best to shield younger kids from tragic news, there's really no shielding the teens and tweens in your family from the harsh images and sad events that are on the news, especially in situations involving a natural disaster. But a great way for older kids to work through their feelings surrounding these events is to get involved. Here are five ways they can lend a hand.
1. Raise funds to make a monetary donation
Donations to organizations such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are often more helpful than used clothes and toys -- especially early in a disaster. Whether it's a lemonade stand, an after-school bake sale, or even an ice cream social -- getting older kids involved in planning an event, making flyers to advertise it, rallying friends and other family members to make donations, and executing on their idea is a great way for kids to contribute. Active participation in this way truly allows kids to feel as if they are "doing something," and it raises money that can be directly used to help families in Oklahoma.
2. Put it in writing
Another way for kids to work through their feelings of grief is to write a letter or to draw a picture. Ask you son or daughter to write a letter to another child has been impacted by these events. Encourage your child to consider what words would be helpful to hear if they were in the same situation- messages of encouragement such as "You can get through this," and of strength "We are all thinking of you and your family." Our schools actively used this tool as a healing technique for students following the events in Newtown, Connecticut.
3. Get involved locally
Kids may need to see and feel something tangible to know that they are making a difference. So while we may not be able to get involved and do something directly in Oklahoma, kids can feel empowered by getting involved locally. Collect dog food, cat food and blankets for a local animal shelter. Collect canned goods and donate them to a local food bank. Help to set up a book drive for gently used picture books and donate them to a local women's shelter. Remind them that there are always ways to help those in need.
4. Thank first responders|
Focus your child's attention on the police, fireman, paramedics, doctors, nurses and volunteers who are helping the families in Oklahoma. Write a thank you letter and mail it to one of these local organizations. Bake a plate of cookies and deliver it to your local community first responders and let them know how grateful you are for the work they do.
5. Allow them to see you as a model
Discuss with your tweens and teens what you intend to do in terms of making a monetary donation or volunteering for a local organization, and even take them along with you if it's appropriate. And keep in mind that the need for blood donations is constant, even if it is not needed at this moment in Oklahoma. It's important for kids to see that adults can take many different active roles in a crisis, and these actions help us to cope with our feelings of helplessness.
iVoice correspondent Sharon Rowley is the Mom to six kids ages 7 to 12. Sharon blogs daily at Momof6 and you can find her on twitter @sharonmomof6.