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Explaining the Japanese crisis to children

Posted by Rob Anderson  March 21, 2011 09:26 AM

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While Japan's nuclear crisis is causing American grown-ups to question the wisdom of our reliance on nuclear power, kids are reacting to the event in entirely different ways. Take this anecdote shared by one concerned mother on Barbara F. Meltz's parenting advice blog:

The younger asked several times this morning, "Is the earthquake coming here?" and this afternoon, the older one said, "We can't go to Cape Cod this summer." When I asked why, you guessed it: she said, "Cause a giant wave could come."

I told them Cape Cod was safe. When she brought it up a second time, her dad said, "You don't need to worry about this. It's safe."

Meltz offers parents some great, practical advice, including ways to better understand what's going on in their children's minds. "Think of it as if all children have a neon sign in their brains," she explains. "When something frightening happens, the sign goes into active mode, blinking furiously: 'What about me? Am I safe?'"

But there's one piece of advice Meltz may want to reword, considering a certain YouTube clip making its rounds on the Internet. '[G]oing forward," Meltz writes, "don't pooh-pooh their concerns." Pooh-poohing concerns it exactly the approach of a Japanese-language video that tries to explain the Fukushima plant crisis to children in analogies they can understand:

The way we talk to children can be a window on cultural differences that are sometimes hard to pinpoint. Some Americans may find the video to be a bit too, well, forthcoming, but Pajamas Media blogger Bryan Preston says it's exactly what he would expect from the Japanese:

Having spent a few years living in Tokyo, this approach to explaining what’s happening at the Fukushima Daiichi plant doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s Shinchan meets the nuclear age and it’s very…Japanese. It’s also remarkably level headed.
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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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