Education, Kids, Parenting

Lessons For Kids in a Natural Disaster – The Mudslide of Oso, Wa

The Mudslide of Oso, Wa

On March 23, 2014 our county experienced a tragic natural disaster. This post takes a story of a tragic event in our town and lessons for kids in a natural disaster. Many lives were lost in this sudden disaster. The entire neighboring towns including my own town I live in less than 20 miles from the slide embraced Oso, Wa. after a mud slide buried many homes with families inside without warning.

For days our local news broke in twice a day about 9am and 6pm consistently for updates from officials. We had so many helicopters flying over our house. Naturally, my son-age 5 at the date of the slide- caught on that there has been a disaster. I shield my son from certain news stories, but not all. I never allow him to hear stories of child abuse or gang-related events, but I feel like real life experiences such as natural disasters to teach safety and to make him aware of his surroundings can be beneficial when done appropriately and with communication along with it. He stopped to watch a debriefing on the slide this morning with me and the fire chief on camera broke into tears-so did I. My son asked how it happened. So came a science lesson.  

A Science Lesson 

I took the opportunity to explain to him what a landslide is and how rain effects the earth. He asked if we can be in a landslide and we looked outside to see if we sit on or under a hillside. We don’t so the answer is no. I wanted it to be visual so he was not left with any doubt or concern. “Why do people build on hills then?” I explained how many hills there are in the world and about weathermen and scientists who study hills and how weather effects land and some hills are safe, some are not and some can be a problem, but those who build there know this and hope if there was a slide they would have a warning. In this case there was no warning.  

I was able to explain that everyone always is still learning even when you are a smart scientist, there is still new things to learn. “What do you think the scientists and weathermen learned about this landslide?” We hypothesized-that once a landslide occurs in an area perhaps they should forever call it unsafe? My son says Wow-“not even smart people can know everything?” Ding! Ding! That is what I wanted to hear. “Always keep learning. Never think you know everything, Son.”

Helping Others

As we talked about how slides happen and how the victims are left with missing homes I explained how lucky he is he has his bed and toys. These people who survived have no house. We looked around and talked about not having a TV anymore, our pictures, food, etc… but I told him what makes it all better is that there are always people willing to help. “Can we help, Mommy?” DING! DING! Again-exactly what I wanted to hear him say. Of course, I said. I told him we can go into Arlington and eat lunch at a restaurant donating money to victims. We can go shopping for the things victims need and drop them off with people who are collecting things for them. He agreed to head out and do that!  

First stop-Safeway for an item I needed. Out front was a volunteer Fireman collecting food, cash, gas cards and baby items for victims and responders. We head into the dry goods section and picked out pastas, sauces and boxed items. We paid and I had him carry the bags to the ‘nice man’.  

Next-lunch at The Stump. We looked at the red heart balloons that lined the entire entrance and the sign stating their support. “This town is helping by giving their money they make to victims instead of keeping it!” The food was amazing by the way!  

As we drove through town I pointed out all the signs on businesses that are offering prayers or support. Then a commercial came on the radio from our local news stating that there were stations set up from the American Legion collecting items for the first responders. Next lesson-what is a First Responder? I explained. They are dredged in filth, it was currently raining hard and they are having to shower multiple times a day and they need snacks. Off to Walmart. I know I could drop them off at the Rainy Days Cafe in my town and to end the day with a coffee sounded good anyhow.

We bought the requested shampoos, soaps, toothpaste. Walmart had a clearance on 6-packs of bar soap to $2-I bought them out! My son was getting a kick out of being buried. I let him buy a TMNT ball-he has been a good helper!


The last lesson in Natural Disaster accidents he got was a lesson in safety. He had asked towards the end of the day how people got rescued. I explained again about who first responders are and what people should do if stuck. I told him that if you are stuck or in a different room and things break around you, you need to make noise so people know you are there. I talked to him about wires and power lines and if they are down DO NOT TOUCH & why. I let him ask questions and I answered.  

I can shelter him and keep from from viable information or I can know that he DOES hear things and he DOES see things. Especially at school with efforts happening there and I want to know what he knows and communicate the proper information to him. To shelter him and keep him from important safety information can be the difference in life or death if, heavens forbid, we end up trapped or separated. As well, if I shelter him from a community who is reaching out to help, will he understand early on the importance of helping others?

This was a day I will never forget with him. He told his Dad about his day, he was proud of the helper he was and loves his new ball he earned. It was a great day despite the tragedy.

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Karen Coutu

Such disasters, natural or otherwise, are hard for children to understand. You did a great job in helping to explain why such a tragedy occurred and provided ways to help so your child wouldn't feel helpless himself. 🙂

Lexie Lane

So glad you're ok. It's hard and sad to see or know things like this.

Kim M

My heart just breaks for everyone affected. I am sending prayers. How wonderful you embraced it as a teachable moment. So many people want to shield their kids from the bad, it's natural, but kids are perceptive, they sense something is wrong and sometimes that just breeds fear. Now your son knows what happened, no mystery to fear and probably feels empowered.


This is such a tragedy and nightmare. I have a great aunt who lived there until she passed, and I remember visiting and it being such a beautiful place. My heart is aching, and I love how you brought your child into this in a safe way that helped him engage. I am lucky that tragedies haven't been so close to our home for my children to question their safety, but I know that day will come.

Kari Ann

Such a great lesson to teach your child. Sad Event I pray everyone will recover.


Oh my gosh, what an amazing lesson in….so many things! Helping others, never being too smart to learn more, how to donate items in times of disaster, etc. But the best lesson I think was that his mom cares about and thinks of others in need and takes action!

Holly @ Woman Tribune

I am so, so sorry you and those around you have been going through this. I heard heard a lot about it on the news and could not even imagine. It is amazing that you took this opportunity and turned it into a teachable moment.

Elizabeth Oo

I don't actually have cable, so I barely heard about the landslides. I was shocked to see the damage. What a smart boy you have!

Ave T

I'm glad that you could teach so many interesting and useful things to your child. It sure is important to know how to act and help others.


This is awesome that you were able to take a tragedy and make it into very valuable lessons. I'm Stumbling and tweeting!

ReviewsSheROTE Pamela R

Glad your family is alright–There is a learning moment in everything and we just have to be willing to see it-BRAVO to you for using the moment to teach and having a open minded Son to see the lesson.

tara pittman

Glad you are ok and you are able to help others.


I saw is all over the TVs while I was at the gym. Such a sad tragedy. it's great that you taught your child a lesson from it.

michelle f.