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Helping Kids Cope with the Emotional Effects of a Disaster
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
A disaster impacts everyone no matter what age; but for children, it can be even more unsettling as they struggle to understand what has happened or why. It is very important for parents, guardians and teachers to learn how to react to the emotional effects of a disaster on children so they can be an effective support group during such times of crisis.
Here are some suggestions to help kids deal with their emotions after a disaster:
Let the child express his fears and thoughts. Do not dismiss his questions or concerns. Listen carefully to what they are saying and start a dialogue in order to get a clear idea of their understanding of the disaster. This way, you will be able to respond to their concerns appropriately.
Children who have seen the horrific images of disaster whether firsthand or from the media will naturally feel frightened that the disaster will happen again and that their families will get hurt or they will be left alone. After a disaster, what children need the most is reassurance in order to restore their sense of security.
Assure them that your main concern when an emergency happens is to keep your family safe. Hug them and just let them feel protected. Talk about the facts of the disaster that just happened in a calm way. It will also be reassuring for children to know what your plans are to ensure the safety of your family.
Lessen Media Exposure
It will work against your goal to reassure a scared child if he or she will be continually exposed to the images of the disaster on media such as catastrophic flood damage from a hurricane or any other disaster, which can create further anxiety. For very young children, the daily news coverage about a major disaster can seem like the event is not yet over and is happening every day. If they do let their children watch the news, parents should be present to explain what is going on.
Help Them Recover
When you tell them that everything will be fine, it will be good to follow it up with how you plan to move on. Older children can even help think about how to improve the family disaster plan. Give them tasks around the house or get them involved in simple disaster recovery projects in the community. It will do them good to know that they are able to help your family and the community recover.
Set a Good Example
Adults should remember that their own feelings and response towards the disaster have an influence on the behavior of children. When you are strong, hopeful and determined in the face of adversity, it teaches children to be the same way, too.
Of course, this doesn't mean that adults are not allowed to feel frightened, insecure or confused. However, in order to help children cope with the disaster, adults must be able to manage their own emotions first. The best way to do this is through your own social support system including your family, friends, church and community.
Coping with the Emotional Effects of a Disaster
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