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Mining Tragedy May Worry Children Whose Parents Have Dangerous Jobs
Texas Children’s Hospital

The recent tragedy at the Sago coal mine in West Virginia may worry children whose parents have other types of dangerous jobs – firefighters, policeman, the military or airplane pilots.

“Although this particular situation with the coal miners was isolated to West Virginia, many children whose parents are in other dangerous types of jobs may begin to wonder whether their mother or father is safe at work and if he or she will be able to come home from work on any given day,” said Dr. Paige Powell, child psychologist at Texas Children’s Hospital’s Learning Support Center. “With the volume of images that the media is portraying, it would be only natural for a child to have increased anxiety over the safety of their parents.”

Over the last few years, the country has experienced its share of tragedies and disasters, from the events of September 11, 2001, to the ongoing war in Iraq, to the hurricane season of 2005.

“Listen to your child’s concerns about the parent whose job may put them in danger,” said Powell. “Follow up on your child’s questions and encourage them to ask other questions. It’s alright to ask them some questions too, to try and get to the root of their anxiety. Listen for clues that might tell you that the child has received his or her information from the media or from peers at school. Try to dispel any myths, but don’t make false assurances that a parent will not get hurt or may die as a result of his or her job.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the most dangerous jobs in the United States include: truck drivers, miners, farmers, construction laborers, supervisors and proprietors in sales occupations, timber cutters and loggers, airplane pilots and navigators.

Powell offers the following tips to parents or caregivers if a child is worried about a parent’s safety on the job:

Talk with your children reassuringly and honestly. Don’t leave it to someone else to provide assurance and information. Be brief and honest.

Validate your child’s feelings. Avoid telling your child “don’t worry” or “don’t be sad.” Instead, you might say, “I understand you are worried and that’s OK.”

Use nonverbal reassurance. If your child becomes clingy or seems worried, it’s important to respond with cuddles, hugs and kisses.

If possible, stick to your family’s normal routine. Stick to your family’s schedule as much as possible. Children, especially younger ones, find security in the familiarity of their daily routine.

Limit children’s television viewing of events. Children may develop thoughts and ideas that are untrue based on the images they see on television.

About Texas Children’s Hospital:
As one of the nation’s largest pediatric hospitals, Texas Children’s is renowned for its expertise and breakthrough development in the treatment of cancer, premature infants, cardiogenic disorders, diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS and attention-related disorders. Since opening its doors in 1954, the Texas Children's Hospital Integrated Delivery System (IDS) has cared for more than 1 million children from every corner of the world, and has more than 2 million patient encounters a year. Internationally recognized, the hospital is ranked in the top four among children’s hospitals by both Child magazine and U.S. News and World Report. For more information, visit www.texaschildrenshospital.org.

The information presented on this site is intended solely as a general educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical condition and before starting any new treatment.

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