Talking to Kids About the Gulf Oil Spill
Reassurance and Adult Responsibility "The most important point for parents to emphasize to children of all ages is that incidents like the Gulf oil spill are adult problems and that adults will handle it. They are not a child's responsibility," says Dalheim. This reassurance will give kids security. It is also important for parents to provide age-appropriate answers to kids' questions.
Talking to Preschoolers and Young Kids Parents of preschoolers and young kids can let kids initiate the questions about the spill, and keep answers basic and comforting. Young children who seem worried about photographs they have seen in the news or adult conversations they have heard will gain comfort by "exploring their own backyards and local nature, and being part of positive, simple activities to help or learn about their own environment," says Dalheim. Find nature activities for kids here on ParentsConnect.
You can also watch together an oil-spill related episode of Go Diego Go!, "Ocean Animal Rescuer." In this adventure, Diego successfully saves a humpback whale, a dolphin and other animals from an oil spill. The familiar, fictional cartoon characters illustrate for young kids the real-world problem of an oil-spill in a positive manner geared for their age. Watch the show on Nickelodeon Thursday 7/8 at 7 a.m. and on Nick Jr. Tuesday 7/13 at 7:30 p.m, or watch it online together anytime at NickJr.com!
Talking to Older Kids and Teens Older kids and teens can handle more detailed information about the oil spill and the problems it presents. However, Dalheim recommends parents "don't give children false hope, and stay truthful. Let your older children guide the conversation and ask the questions. This way you can address their questions without overwhelming them." You can search for answers together on family-friendly news sites such as the National Wildlife Foundation's Ranger Rick oil spill site or Nick News.
Older kids can be empowered if they can personally feel like they're a part of the solution. By logging onto The Big Help at Nick.com, your kids can remotely participate in the oil spill clean-up, as well as educate themselves about improving the environment in a fun (and again, age-appropriate) manner.
For more information about discussing the oil spill and other serious environmental issues with your kids, visit the National Wildlife Foundation's Ranger Rick site for families.
You can also read a first-hand account of how one mom decided to talk to her preschooler about the spill.