Q of the Week : How do you talk to your kids about disasters?

Given the events of the last week, I can’t think of any other question for today.  We’re pretty (deliberately) media-starved in this house, so any news the boys get comes mostly from the net, via us.  We finally sat down with them at dinner last night and explained earthquakes and rippling earth and tectonic plates, collapsing buildings, orphans, mass graves, and widespread destruction.  Not in graphic detail mind you, but the concepts.  We got out the globe and pointed out Haiti, and looked at some news photos.  They did watch some earthquake videos on YouTube, and then spent the rest of the meal shaking the table to pretend we were having one, and asking questions about various scenarios, should we ever be in a disaster like that. 

My boys are 3 and 7, and have no unrestricted access to media, so we still have a lot of influence in how they perceive events.  With Douglas, there’s all the info he gleans on the playground and at school, which sometimes gets shared and discussed at home.  Other things I know he tucks away and doesn’t bring up.  Events like the earthquake are a chance to touch on the harder aspects of life, which I’m not particularly looking to talk about, but it’s as good a time as any.  We tend to be pretty blunt and open once we do get into subjects, my husband even more so than I, and it’s sometimes awkward when they take what they’re told and share it with other kids.  We try to make it clear what’s appropriate to share with their friends and what isn’t, but I know it doesn’t always stick.  

So how do you talk to your kids about the big subjects?  Are you a minimal-info sharer or a lots-of-detail describer?  Do you pre-empt discussions, or wait until they come up and then deal with them?  I’m curious how others handle it!