HOW TO HELP CHILDREN FACING A DISASTER
Disasters can suddenly strike without any sign. They can force us to leave behind our house, our belongings, or trap us in buildings. These events can confuse adults and children. Children response to the environment and the reaction of adults, thus reacting to stress signals send by their parents. They can even think that their parents are too busy solving the situation that they do not have time to listen to their fears, concerns and worries. It is very important identify fear signals in our children in an effort to assist them correctly.
How does a child response to a disaster?
Children are used to a daily routine: they wake up, have breakfast, go to school and play with their friends, etc. When a disaster alters their routine, children DO get anxious, fearful and anguished:
- If you are alarmed, your child will be more scared because he will think that danger is REAL.
- If you are overwhelmed by the feeling of loss, your children will deeply feel twice as much as you.
- TALK to your child, provide information on what is happening and be HONEST.
- A child’s fear and anxiety can be fed by their own imagination; that is very true if the event is a new one and never experienced before (earth quake, storm, tsunami, etc).
- Communicate in a simple way according to your child’s age.
The event will occur again.
Someone will die or get hurt.
They will be separated from his or her family.
Will stay alone.
Observe the following conduct:
Strange behavior such as: crying, aggression and tantrums.
Lack of self-esteem, thus causing depression.
Regressive behavior such as: thump-sucking or bed wetting.
Physical problems such as: colds, rash reactions, headaches, allergies or flu symptoms.
How can you HELP?
- Develop an emergency family plan.
- Teach your child how to recognize danger signals: fire alarms, smoke detectors, emergency sounds (sirens and horns).
- Explain HOW and WHEN calling for HELP.
- Teach your child the basic personal information such as last names, address, phone number, and cell phone numbers and WHERE to go in case of an emergency.
- If your child is little, make an ID card.
After the disaster
Try to calm down the child’s anxiety.
Keep family together, do not split.
Keep your child inform of what is happening and what can happen later on.
Use a simple language according to your child’s age and capacities.
Taken by the American Red Cross Guidelines