I apologize for missing last week, if you’ve ever moved you know how easy it is to lose work in progress. But I have located it and am ready to start on the series that will give parents, caregivers, and other adults suggestions on how to help children cope with the effects of disaster, as well as how to be prepared before a disaster strikes.
Children can feel very frightened during a disaster and afterwards some children will show temporary changes of behavior. For most children these changes will be mild, not last long, and diminish with time. However, reminders of what happened could cause upsetting feelings to return and behavior changes to emerge again. Watching scenes of the disaster on television can be distressing for children, especially for younger children.
Younger children may return to bed-wetting, have difficulty sleeping, and not want to be separated from their caregivers. Older children may show more anger than usual, find concentrating at school harder, and want to spend more time alone than usual. Some children are more vulnerable, and their reactions can be more severe and last for a longer period of time.
Factors that contribute to greater vulnerability include:
*Direct exposure to the disaster: this includes being evacuated, seeing injured or dying people, being injured themselves, and feeling that their own lives are threatened.
*Personal loss: this includes the death or serious injury of a family member, close friend, or family pet.
*On-going stress from the secondary effects of disaster: this includes temporarily living elsewhere, losing contact with their friends and neighbors, losing things that are important to them, parental job loss, and the financial costs of reestablishing their previous living conditions.
*Prior exposure to disaster or other traumatic events: how parents and caregivers react to and cope with a disaster or emergency situation can affect the way their children react. When parents and caregivers or other family members are able to deal with the situation calmly and confidently, they are often the best source of support for their children. One way to help children feel more confident and in control is to involve them in preparing a family disaster plan.
In the next few weeks, we will discuss Children’s Reaction to Disaster by their age groups. We’ll decide What Parents and Caregivers Can Do to understand the causes of anxieties and fears. And then we’ll discuss how to Prepare Your Family.