The World is Coming Together

March 18, 2011

During these times when part of the world is suffering in unimaginable ways, it is hard to know how to talk with your children about what is happening. Although we try to filter the information our children receive, they are bound to catch glimpses of disturbing images and hear stories from friends or teachers at school. It is important to share simplified versions of what has happened and to answer questions as they arise.

There are a lot of anxieties that are created when children hear about earthquakes, tsunamis and possible nuclear meltdowns. I have found that the most positive way to channel these concerns is by finding ways that they can help to make a difference. It is important for children to see that in times of crisis people come together to help those in need. It is reassuring for them to know that “the world is coming together to help the people in Japan, just like if we ever had an earthquake or tsunami here, the world would come together to help us.”

In these moments it is important that children feel like they are a part of that coming together. By finding outlets and ways for them to help and make contributions, it makes them feel as if they are connected to a larger collective—and I have found it eases their anxieties. There are numerous ways for children to help. For this particular crises sending money seems to be what Japan needs most. This can be accomplished by doing extra chores around the house, organizing craft sales, bake sales, or lemonade stands to earn money to give to the organization of their choice.

We are starting a new session of The Young Craftivists and after a lot of discussion the children in the group decided to donate 100% of the proceeds that are raised from our next craft sale to UNICEF’s Emergency Relief for Children in Japan. After the decision was reached (by vote) I sensed a transformation in the room from that of anxiety to a commitment and determination to help.

The process of selecting the organization you and your family would like to give to, is a great experience in and of itself. I have provided links below to some of the organizations that I have found with specific funds dedicated to Japanese relief efforts. I have also provided the rating that each organization has received from Charity Navigator (just click on the stars to see the review on each organization). Some questions to explore as a family to help with your decision are:

• How much of the money donated will go directly to the people of Japan and how much goes to administrative costs?
• Does the organization have the ability to reach those who need the most help on the ground in Japan?
• What aspect of the relief effort will the money go to? Rebuilding? Food and shelter? Places for children to play? Emergency care?

When we encourage our children tap into and act on the natural instinct we all have for reaching out to those in need they become empowered rather than feeling afraid and helpless.

Please add any other suggestions you have for organizations or ways for children to become involved in the relief efforts for Japan.

Ways to help…

UNICEF Emergency Relief for Children in Japan ****
Save the Children: Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief ****
Habitat for Humanity International’s Response to Japan Tsunami ****
Architecture for Humanity: Sendai Quake ****
Doctors Without Borders ****
Global Giving: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund ***
American Red Cross: Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief ***
Link Love: For Japan
Fresh Finds: Japan Disaster Relief on Etsy

Mariah Bruehl is a parent, educator, and author of the book Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder (Shambhala Publications, 2011). In 2008 Mariah brought her expertise online, creating the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal award-winning Web site Playful Learning. In 2011 she launched the Playful Learning Ecademy, which takes virtual-learning experiences to a new level by incorporating the best practices in education with engaging hands-on lessons, bringing parents and children together from all over the world into a unique, creative, community environment.

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  1. [...] storms and watched closely as many hurricanes were near misses. We have watched in shock and awe as natural disasters have struck hard in other places around the world—but we have never been so up-close and personal [...]

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