Friday, March 25, 2011

Parents reading to children opens to the door for a conversation about the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Parents want their children to feel safe, but traumas and natural disasters are part of the world. The urge is not to talk with children about subjects that are difficult, but the reality is that your children will learn about these subjects, and if not from you, then from someone else. And that “someone else” is not going to have the conversation you want to have with your child. 

Stories put an event into a larger context, allowing a parent or teacher to have a more meaningful conversation. The Big Wave, written in 1947 by Pearl Buck is such a book. The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan put that country’s trauma on the map as it was beamed into our hearts and minds for days. The events were frightening and overwhelming for both children and adults. 

The story centers on Jiya, a Japanese boy who must face life after escaping the tidal wave destruction of his family and village. As with the best of literature, the story offers no easy solutions or trivial remedies but rather encourages the reader to experience, albeit vicariously, Jiya’s journey of acceptance of what has happened as he forges his response to how he must now live his life.  One of my souvenirs from the book is: “To live in the midst of danger is to know how good life is.”

Reading and talking with children about The Big Wave makes it possible to have a conversation about what recently happened in Japan and encourages a parent and child to talk about some very strong emotions, fear, grief, death, love and hope and others.  Children need adults who are willing to talk about hard subjects and strong emotions. A willingness to take a subject out of the dark, expose it to the light of day, and let go of the need to arrive at a solution makes for an important conversation everyone can begin.

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