Helping Children Deal with Natural Disasters Natural disasters are extremely traumatic for adults and even more traumatic for children. When natural disasters strike, everything is so confusing and scary for a child and adults may feel at a loss on what to do to ease those feelings.
Preparation is key for minimizing fear and confusion in children. Adults need to have emergency kits and a plan in place in case the worst strikes. Your kit should contain at least 72 hours’ worth of the essentials for living. Most importantly you need an emergency food supply and water for everyone in your family. Children should know where the kit is located and understand how to use everything in it when they are old enough to comprehend.
Open discussion is key for calming nerves before and after a disaster. If you live in an area that is high risk, you should have conversations with your children about the possibility of a natural disaster and what to expect. Obviously, age and maturity play a big role in how much information you give. It is important to be as honest as possible, particularly after disaster. If you are in the aftermath of a natural disaster, make sure your children feel comfortable asking questions and expressing emotions. Reassure them that their emotions are normal and it’s ok to feel scared or angry. Children tend to mimic adults, so be sure to remain as calm as possible when children are present.
Maintaining a normal routine will help a child recover from trauma much faster. If it is at all possible, allow them to return to school or at least see familiar people. The best way to regain a sense of security is through a predictable routine. Try to avoid allowing children to watch television or listen to radio shows that may be focusing on the negative effects of the disaster.
Try to show your children that the world is still a beautiful place. Show them examples of how people and communities have joined together through the tragedy. If possible, take them to a place in nature that is still beautiful and calming. They may need to be reminded of the happy things in life.
Keep in mind that traumatic events can cause issues for years to come. Make sure children have an adult they can confide in with any residual emotions. Counselors are trained to help children through things like this, and your child may need to visit with a professional to sort out their feelings.
Always remember to take care of yourself as well. A calm, loving adult is what your child needs the most in any emergency.