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 over 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.
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
Listen to what a child is saying. If a young child asks questions about the event, answer them simply without the elaboration needed for an older child or adult. Children vary in the amount of information they need and can use. If a child has difficulty expressing his or her thoughts and feelings, then allowing them to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened may help.
Some children are more vulnerable or have suffered from trauma before. Their reactions can be more severe and last for a longer period of time. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if needed.
The Greater Steuben Chapter of the American Red Cross has some great programs available for kids. You can contact them for more information on the following programs at 607-936-3766 or at http://www.redcross.org/ny/corning :
- Camp RTE-Responding To Emergencies
- CPR/First Aid
- BAT (Basic Aid Training)
- FACT (First Aid for Children Today)
- Scrubby Bear