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Children try to make sense of the unthinkable

American kids are reacting to images of tragedy by turning feelings of sorrow into action, reports NBC's Ron Allen.

In New Jersey, as 11-year-old Victoria Matthews and her 14-year-old brother, Zac, watch what's happening in Asia, they feel sadness for other children.

“I think that must be horrible to know that your parents could be dead,” says Victoria.

Their feelings turned into action. With friends Jenna and Michelle, they’re raising money at the supermarket to help.

“My sister and I were watching TV one night and decided something had to be done,” says Zac.

That’s just one example of how children across the country are responding in unprecedented numbers, after watching Asia's disaster unfold.

“They've been home for the week," says Chip Lyons of UNICEF. "They've been deluged by media and they've been upset by those images.”

With students now back in class, teachers like Ginny Tonner, at Dunning Elementary School outside of Boston, encourages her 5th graders to talk about their fears — especially kids with family near the disaster.

“I was just thinking, ‘oh my God, that could happen to us,’” says one child.

Talking, Tonner says, helps.

“I think it really does affect children on a deeper level when they see pain and suffering around the world and the idea that they can express some of those feelings is very good,” says Tonner.

Some experts think children who've already faced tragedy or disaster are most likely to be affected — like children in Florida, who've endured hurricanes, or in New York, near Ground Zero.

“It might cause nightmares," says Dr. Carl Bell of the University of Illinois. "It might cause some clinging to parents. It might cause some worry about where parents are.”

Experts advise help children do something constructive. That’s a message the Cartoon Network will carry in new ads later this week.

So far in New Jersey, Victoria, Zac, Jenna & Michelle have constructively collected almost $7,000.

“If you can't help the people and go there, then you can at least help by raising money,” says Jenna Carlen.

These are just some of the kids who are turning feelings of sorrow and sadness, into something good.