Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Helping Children Cope with Disaster

Disasters, like the recent flooding, can be traumatic for adults, but they are frightening for children. During a disaster, children may have to leave their homes and daily routines. They may become anxious, confused or frightened. As an adult, you need to cope with the disaster and also give your children crucial guidance about how to respond.

How you react to an emergency gives your children clues about how to act. If you react with alarm, a child may become more scared. They see our fear as proof that the danger is real.

Children's fears also may stem from their imagination, and you should take these feelings seriously. A child who feels afraid is afraid. Your words and actions can provide assurance. Here are some tips:

Ask your children to explain what's troubling them. Be aware that after a disaster, children are most afraid that the event will happen again, someone will get hurt or killed, they will be separated from their family and they will be left alone.

While you look for housing or clean-up your damaged home, you may want to leave your children with relatives or friends. Instead, keep the family together as much as possible. Children get anxious, and they will worry that parents won't return.

Calmy and firmly explain the situation. As best you can, tell children what you know about the disaster. Explain what will happen next. Crouch down and talk to children at their level.

Encourage children to talk. Let them talk about the disaster as much as they want. Encourage them to describe what they are feeling. Listen to what they say. If possible, include the entire family in the discussion.

Include children in recovery activities. Give them chores that are their responsibility. This will help children feel they are part of the recovery. Having a task will help them understand that everything will be all right.

You can help children cope by understanding what causes their anxieties and fears. Reassure them with firmness and love. Your children will realize that life will eventually return to normal. If a child does not respond to the above suggestions, seek help from a mental health specialist.