Several factors affect a child’s response to a disaster:
The way children see and understand their parents’ responses are very important. Children are aware of their parents’ worries most of the time, but they are particularly sensitive during a crisis. Parents should admit their concerns to the children, and also stressed there ability to cope with the disaster. Falsely minimizing the danger will not end a child’s concerns.
After a disaster, parents should be alert to these changes in a child’s behavior:
In the first few days after an incident, your child may feel confused, upset, jumpy or worried. This is normal. Most children just need a little extra time to feel better. Talk to your child’s doctor or school counselor to find out the best way to help your child and family if you are worried about your child’s reactions.
- Refusal to return to school and “clinging” behavior, including shadowing the mother or father around the house
- Persistent fears related to the catastrophe (sure as fear about being permanently separated from parents)
- Sleep disturbances sure as nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting, persisting more than several days after the event
- Loss of concentration and irritability
- Jumpiness or being startled easily
- Behavior problems, for example, misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not typical for the child
- Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, dizziness) for which a physical cause cannot be found
- Withdraw from family and friends, sadness, listlessness, decreased activity, and preoccupation with the event of the disaster
- Let your children know they are safe: give them extra hugs, (even your teenager).
- Allow children to talk about their feelings and worries, if they want to: let them know that being a little scared and upset is normal. If they don’t want to talk, they could write a story or draw a picture.
- Go back to everyday routines: help your child get enough sleep, eat regular, keep up with school, and with as much as the incident allows go back to doing things with friends.
- Increase time with family and friends: children who get extra support from family and friends seem to do better after upsetting events. Try reading, playing games or watch a movie together.
- Take time to deal with your own feelings, too: it will be harder to help your child if you are worried or upset. Talk about your feelings with other adults, sure as family, friends, clergy, your doctor, or a counselor.
- Keep in mind that people in the same family can react in different ways: Remember, your child’s feelings and worries about the injury might be different from yours. Brothers and sisters can feel it set too, even if they were not involved.