Archive for March, 2011

Reflections on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster

March 22, 2011

A Mother’s Love
by Kumi Pinneo

– English translation from a Japan Sankei News article, March 21, 2011

[ … She doesn’t raise her voice to call his name anymore.

It has been nine days after the terrible disaster for a mother looking for her 9-year-old son, in a twisted place where his elementary school once stood.

“I know he is not alive, but he must be very cold in there – I just wanna hold him in my arms and take him out of the dark and cold place,” she said.

Her son was at school when the huge earthquake shook Japan. Few if any, especially that boy’s mother, expected a giant tsunami would eat the whole town only a few minutes later.

In those moments, all the students ran to high ground to escape. But the power of nature was bigger than any could imagine. The monster tsunami swallowed 108 students in one relentless bite.

Only 24 students survived. Many bodies are still under knots of rubble, splintered schools, homes, cars and trees. Many parents still today come to this place to look for their children’s bodies … ]

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi Pref., Japan - Small bags near the Ooakawa School, Mar. 18, 2011, where numerous children went missing after a tsunami engulfed the building. (Japan Sankei News)

As a mother of two boys, it just hurts my heart so much to read that.

How could I face the fact if I lost them? How could I face that fact if I couldn’t find their bodies in the wreckage, knowing they are in that dark and cold place? How could I control myself?

The mother above was not crying or screaming or going crazy.
She just looked and looked and looked for her beloved son.

As a mother, I strive to protect my sons from any danger and I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. But what if their safety is out of my control?  What if we cannot protect our children from injury or death?

What would I do?

What would I feel?

I have no idea. I can’t even imagine.

I feel for that mother in Japan so much. I really feel her – as if I was her. But I think that what I am feeling for her is not even one percent of what she is feeling.

Such as it is with earthquakes and tsunami, the power of nature is strong and often human beings have no power over it and it just happens. The Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster was no one’s fault. It just happened. It happened just as spring arrives in one’s town.

Can that mother blame someone or something? No, she can not.

What is she feeling right now? I pray that we will never know.

Let’s hug and kiss our children when they leave the house each day for school.
When they leave, let’s not forget to let them know – to make them feel – that they are so loved.
Sometimes they give us a hard time whining, fussing, ignoring us, yelling and distracting.

However we do not want to regret. We do not want to look back, at the moments that we didn’t give them hugs and kisses, and wish we had.

~ With love and respect to all the mothers in Japan who lost their children, but not their hope.

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Talking to Children about Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters

March 19, 2011

By David Fassler, M.D.
Via the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
(www.aacap.org)

Once again, parents and teachers are faced with the challenge of discussing a frightening natural disaster with children. Although these may be difficult conversations, they are also important.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to talk with children about such tragic events.

Here are some suggestions you may find helpful:

1. Create an open and supportive environment where children know they can ask questions.
At the same time, it’s best not to force children to talk about things unless and until they’re ready.

2. Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know, or eventually find out, if you’re “making things up”. It may affect their ability to trust you or your reassurances in the future.

3. Use words and concepts children can understand. Gear your explanations to the child’s age, language, and developmental level.

4. Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.

5. Acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.

6. Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about their own safety and the safety of immediate family members. They may also worry about friends or relatives who travel or who live far away.

7. Be reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises. It’s fine to let children know that they are safe in their house or in their school. But you can’t promise that there won’t be another earthquake or other natural disaster.

8. Help children find ways to express themselves. Some children may not want to talk about their thoughts, feelings, or fears. They may be more comfortable drawing pictures, playing with toys, or writing stories or poems.

9. Let children know that lots of people are helping the families affected by the most recent earthquake. It’s a good opportunity to show children that when something scary happens, there are people to help.

10. Children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They will be very interested in how you respond to world events. They also learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.

11. Don’t let children watch too much television with frightening images. The repetition of such scenes can be disturbing and confusing.

12. Children who have experienced trauma or losses in the past are particularly vulnerable to prolonged or intense reactions to news or images of natural disasters. These children may need extra support and attention.

13. Monitor for physical symptoms including head aches and stomach aches. Many children express anxiety through physical aches and pains. An increase in such symptoms without apparent medical cause may be a sign that a child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

14. Children who are preoccupied with questions or concerns about earthquakes or other natural disasters should be evaluated by a trained and qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need additional help include: ongoing sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts or worries, recurring fears about death, leaving parents or going to school. If these behaviors persist, ask your child’s pediatrician, family physician or school counselor to help arrange an appropriate referral.

15. Although parents and teachers may follow the news and the daily events with close scrutiny, many children just want to be children. They’d rather play ball, climb trees or go sledding

Earthquakes and other natural disasters are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many young children feel frightened and confused. As parents, teachers and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner. Fortunately, most children, even those exposed to trauma, are quite resilient. However, by creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, we can help them cope with stressful events and experiences, and reduce the risk of lasting emotional difficulties.

David Fassler, M.D. is a child & adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Burlington, Vermont.  He is also a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, and a member of the Consumer Issues Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (www.aacap.org)

Please Help Japan

March 13, 2011

Please support the recovery effort in Japan, by donating to one of the following organizations. Some make it as simple as texting.

 

Donate via Google Crisis Response

 

 

Donate via iTunes

 

 

Donate via Doctors without Borders

 

 

 

Donate via the American Red Cross
Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10

 

 


Donate via The Salvation Army
Text QUAKE to 80888 to donate $10

 

 

Donate via Save the Children

 

“Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression.
We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous.
We experience joy in the actual act of giving something.
And we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given.”
— Siddhārtha Gautama