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Disasters: How Families Can Help

Medically reviewed by: KidsHealth Medical Experts

Disasters — like earthquakes, war, wildfires, or severe weather events — can happen close to home or far away. But when we hear the news, it affects us. We feel for the people who might be hurt and the communities that are damaged. It has a deeper impact if you know people who are affected.

If it’s an event your kids are aware of, talk with them about what they’ve heard and how they feel. It’s likely that they will feel for the people involved too. Hearing what others are going through may make kids feel stressed, sad, or worried. To help them cope, listen calmly. Let them say how they feel. Let them know it’s OK to feel the way they do. Help them feel safe.

When it feels right, you might also talk about how your family could help. When you show kids how to turn their empathy into helpful action, they learn they can make a difference.

How Can We Help?

Many groups are set up to help people during a disaster. The best thing you can do is to support them. They know what is needed for each situation. They can guide you on how to give. Visit their websites to find out what they need.

Here are some of them:

It's OK if your family doesn't have a lot to give. Every donation, big or small, helps to rebuild when communities are hit by disasters.

What Can We Give?

Giving money always helps. But it’s not the only thing families can do. Here are other ways that you and your kids can help:

  • Donate food or other items. Check with your local Red Cross chapter, community center (like the YMCA), or place of worship to find out what they need. Sometimes, charities get too many donations and have to spend money storing or handling the extra items. So ask what’s needed before you give.
  • Donate your time. Offer to help sort through donations or deliver goods to families affected by the disaster.
  • Organize a fundraiser. Start a drive to collect money or supplies for disaster victims. Or plan a walk, run, bake sale, or other activity to raise money. A good place to do it is through your place of worship or your kids’ school.

Why It Matters

Volunteering your time, money, or efforts can help your community — and others — in a time of need. It’s also a way to teach your kids to value giving. Times you spend helping others, especially as a family, are times kids will always remember. It’s meaningful and helps you feel close.

Giving and helping deepen positive emotions like compassion and gratitude. These emotions feel good. And they do us good too. They build coping skills, lower our stress response, and support our mental well-being. And that’s good for everyone.

Medically reviewed by: KidsHealth Medical Experts
Date reviewed: February 2023