Yesterday we published this post about how to talk to children about Natural Disasters like the tornado that just swept through Moore, Oklahoma.
And now we’ve created a story to help families with young children meet with news and experiences of natural disasters.
It’s called “Helpers”. (You’ll find the download link below.)
It is a short story about Dennis, a happy little six year old boy who wakes one morning to see his mother listening to the radio in the kitchen. She turns it off, but Dennis can tell that something is wrong and that his mother is feeling sad – and maybe a little scared. She explains that something happened, a big storm moved through a town, and buildings were damaged and people were hurt. When she sees that this is making him feel nervous, she scoops him up and tells him,
“I know that when something like this happens – when there are very strong winds or other kinds of storms – people around the world will know about it. And do you know what they do when they find out? They will help.”
She then told him about how all the people on their street, in their neighborhood and in their town that want to make sure that he, Dennis, is safe.
“But you know what, Dennis?” his Mother asked, raising her eyebrows, “It is time for us to be the helpers. There are people that are feeling scared right now because a storm came to their house. Our house is fine and so are we. Are you ready to be a helper?”
We hope this story helps with how your children meet this and other difficult events that we all must face. We send our prayers to Oklahoma.
Feel free to share this story with families who have heard or felt the impact of Monday’s tornado in Oklahoma. You can use it as a vehicle for family conversation, although often there is no need to discuss. The story conveys it’s own message.
This story has no Sparkle advertisement or copyright tag. It is only intended as a gift to support families who may find it useful. Feel free to download and share or email this story as often as you’d like. We give permission for it to be shared freely. You can find a print version of the story below.
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Once upon a time in a little house on a street of many little houses, there lived a young boy named Dennis. Dennis was six years old and lived with his mother and older brother Tommy. Like most boys his age, Dennis loved to play in his back yard and ride his bike in the driveway and build towers of blocks in his room. On rainy days he would put on his boots and rain jacket and dig little trenches between the puddles. On windy days he liked to toss leaves and see how far the wind would carry them. He had a best friend named Caroline who lived three houses down, and the two of them played nearly every day together. In the summertime their favorite games were swinging on Dennis’s rope swing and hide-and-seek in Caroline’s back yard. In the winter time they liked to build forts in the snow.
Dennis was a happy boy who woke up every morning feeling as bright and cheerful as the sun that washed into his little room. He dressed himself and helped his mother make breakfast. After he brushed his teeth, he helped prepare his lunch. Dennis went to the local kindergarten where Caroline and his many other friends went too. He loved his days at school and enjoyed all the stories he heard and games he played every day.
One day, however, was a little different. When he woke up that morning, he dressed himself like he normally did, and then cheerfully went into the kitchen to help his mother. But instead of standing behind the counter like she normally did in the morning, she was sitting at the dining room table listening to the radio. When she saw Dennis, she turned the radio off and smiled – but Dennis could see that it was a pretend smile. He could tell that his mother was feeling sad and maybe a little scared. This made Dennis feel nervous.
“What is it?” he asked, “Why are you listening to the radio – and why did you turn it off?”
His mother was quiet for a moment, and then she said, “Well….. I just heard something on the news – and I heard about something that happened… and I’m feeling sad.” But that is all that she said. Then she stood and walked over to Dennis and gave him a hug. She squeezed him tight and then scooped him up and sat down on a dining room chair.
“What happened?” he asked. He was feeling very nervous now and wanted to know.
“Well…” she said with a deep breath, “There was a very big storm…. it was so big and powerful that some people were hurt.”
Dennis was quiet for a moment as he started to imagine what his mother was talking about. He had many questions and wanted to ask them all,
“Where there any children hurt? Did any children get hurt in the storm?”
His mother was quiet and then looked him in the eye. Her expression was serious, like she was going to tell him something very important. But he could also see a sparkle – a very special sparkle of love.
“There are many things I don’t know. And there are many things everyone else doesn’t know – but I can tell you this Dennis. If you look in our back yard you can see grass and trees and a gentle breeze blowing through them. There are places in the world where the grass is very small and the trees are very short and the wind is so still you can’t see it. There are also places with huge trees as tall as skyscrapers and grass that grows over your head and wind so strong that it can shake the tallest trees and shake the tallest grass. Well, Dennis, there are places where the wind can shake so hard that people can get hurt and people can get scared.” Then she paused for a moment and looked closely at Dennis. “Is this making you feel a little nervous?”
Dennis nodded his head. He was feeling nervous.
“I am feeling a little nervous too” said his mother, “But I know something else that makes me feel more brave – do you want to know it too?”
Dennis eagerly nodded his head again. He wanted to feel brave because feeling scared made his belly tight and this didn’t feel very good.
“I know that when something like this happens – when there are very strong winds or other kinds of storms – people around the world will know about it. And do you know what they do when they find out?”
Dennis’ eyes widened and he shook his head.
“They help” said his mother with a smile, “They do whatever they can do to help. They help people get better, they help fix any buildings that might have been damaged, they help find any lost doggies, and they help learn from the storm or fire or flood so that they can be ready if it happens again.”
Dennis felt a mix of feelings in that moment. He felt safe and warm and protected in his mother’s arms, and he felt glad that there were so many people in the world that were ready to help. But he also still felt scared, and this time he felt scared about the clouds in his yard.
“But what about if a storm comes here?” asked Dennis looking out the window, “What do we do if a storm comes to our house?”
Dennis looked hard into his mother’s eyes and saw that she was still a little sad – most mostly he saw his mother’s strength.
“I will do everything I can to keep you safe” said his mother, “And so will Mr. and Mrs. Lambert next door and the Nichols across the street. In fact, everyone in our neighborhood is ready to keep you safe — as well as the fire fighters, police officers, doctors, teachers and the mayor of our town. Dennis, people all over the world want you to be safe and will do whatever they can to help you. There are so many helpers in the world – waiting for a chance to give you whatever you need.”
She looked deep into Dennis’ eyes and could see that he was feeling better. He nodded his head and even smiled. Then she popped him off her lap and stood him solidly on the ground.
“But you what Dennis?” she asked raising her eyebrows, “It is time for us to be the helpers. There are people that are feeling scared right now because a storm came to their house. Our house is fine and so are we, so are you ready to be a helper?”
Dennis felt a wash of strength and courage come over him. He wanted to help. He wanted to do whatever he could to help people not be scared. He nodded his head confidently and said,
“Yes Momma, I want to help”
“Good,” said his mother, “There are many things we could do. We could give money to groups of people who know how to help. We could give food and clothing – and we could help the people who know how to fix things that broke in the storm. I am thinking that collecting food is a good way to start – what do you think?”
Dennis smiled and nodded his head. He pictured gathering lots of canned food and giving it to someone who needed it. His mother then pulled him close again and said,
“Now helping doesn’t mean that we stop feeling scared or sad or angry, it just means we are doing what we can to help others that are feeling the same way. We need to keep talking about how we feel to each other, OK?”
“OK,” said Dennis who then looked out the window. As his mother started to tell him about how they were going to help deliver food to the people who needed it, Dennis looked up at the sky. He saw a cloud that looked a little dark. At first he wondered if it was the kind of cloud that came with lots of wind, but then he could see that it wasn’t. It was a quiet cloud, a cloud that moved gently across the sky. He saw the trees and the grass and the road and the houses across the street. He saw his neighborhood and imagined all the people who lived in those houses – all ready to be a helper – to help anyone who needed food or clothing or just to be held like his mother held him. Then Dennis saw his neighbor, Mr. Nichols come outside on his front lawn. He looked up at the sky and then looked at Dennis’ house. Their eyes met and Mr. Nichols waved to him. Dennis smiled and waved back. Dennis could really understand what his mother was saying now. He could see that Mr. Nichols was looking out for him. He looked over at his mother who had a piece of paper and a pencil and was writing things down at the dining room table. He felt her love and her strength and her courage, and even though he was still feeling a little nervous, he could feel his own love, strength and courage as well.