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Monday, May 30, 2011

Children and Natural Disasters


Guest Post: by ‘Be Informed’

Children and the way they feel are often forgotten during these perilous times. Kids of all ages are quite perceptive to what is going on but not actually understanding it fully. The horrified adults’ reactions and expressions to these disasters both on the news and from those around them can be extremely taxing on a young person’s nerves. What can you as a parent, guardian, relative, or an adult that a child looks up to both literally and figuratively do to help alleviate children’s anxieties about all the terrible events that seem to continue one after the other with drastic intensity?

- Younger people want to know if something ‘bad’ happens that there is some sort of plan there to handle it. Children need to know that they and those around them can recover from something and that they and their families can survive. Have something a ‘plan’ layed out for just in case.

- Always include children in the family plan for preparing for any type of disaster. Kids love to be included and feel what they think actually matters. A simple question to a child of, “What do you think?”, or “How can we make this better?” can do wonders to make a kid feel part of everything. Besides this, a lot of children are very bright and their opinions can be of great use.

- Most children will respond well to honesty to what could happen as long as there is a solution to the problem. Talking something over with a child in great detail can lessen much unreasonable fear. Many parents will bury their own heads in the sand and not discuss the dangers of say an earthquake. If and when then is an earthquake the child may not know what to do when the shaking starts and freeze up. The parent or adult’s own fear of overly scaring some child could be the difference between that child coming home or not after a disaster such as an earthquake.

- Try to always watch disturbing images of disasters that the media will usually over-dramatize with children and talk over with them why everyone feels so awful. In other words when there is great sadness shown on the television explain to the child why you think this is happening, or just talk over what those going through these horrid times are feeling.

- Never dismiss a child’s fear as ridiculous. Fear is a horrendous, ugly real feeling that needs to be talked over and not keep bottled up to get even worse. Rational and irrational fears in children and adults alike need to be discussed. A lot of children live in fantasy worlds and when there is even a small area of devastation that occurs the child might see this as the entire world. Logical explanations can help ease unrealistic fears.

- Make sure that the school, day care facility, whenever they are staying at has some sort of disaster preparedness ready. Not only is this essential for them, the children are going to personally feel safer knowing that their own home and outside their home is ready for some disaster to happen. Many places are not even fire ready, do not assume it is safe, do research on it.

- Have a lot of patience, understanding, and compassion for when children, especially younger ones, do not grasp what is happening with the world. Kid’s minds and senses are not fully developed and much time may be necessary to explain to them what to do when a disaster strikes. Kids need to be trained as adults where to go that is safe when something bad happens.

- It seems like every kid has some sort of security blanket that they personally depend on to feel better. Attempt to have what they need there for them when disaster strikes. This can be toy, a pet, a person, whatever will help them feel some comfort.

- Try to not ever allow any child or any member of the family, especially the elderly feel alone without somebody there when bad times hit. Alone can also be a helpless state of mind. Fear can drive people of all ages into their shells to hold everything in. Having someone to talk to can at least make someone feel like they are not so alone. Kids see a lot more than their parents give them credit for and don’t think for a minute that kids don’t see and feel what is going on. Just because someone is quiet does not mean that everything is fine.

- One thing that is common sense is that when enough is enough, turn off the 24/7 news coverage of some catastrophe and get away from the house. Children as adults become very fatigued after hours of watching the misery and need a break. This of course do not apply if you need emergency information on a constant basis.

- One thing that is usually not talked about with children is the financial cost of these disasters that are enormous. So often kids do not understand the value of money and that these disasters can have much impact on the economy and the family budget. Children have to know that these ongoing disasters might run up the cost of everything and that in the future there might not be as much money to spend on things that the kids like.

- Something that can make a child feel better and express themselves is to write down or draw the way they feel about a recent tragedy. This will always give you insight to what they are thinking. The more intensity of a drawing of course shows that the cataclysm that occurred is really bothering them badly.

- Kids like adults gossip and exaggerate stories. Children’s friends and schoolmates can make up stories that are terrifying and have only a kernel of truth behind them. This is why it is so important to be truthful to a child about what is or what is really happening.

- If a child is emotionally up to it explain to them the real consequences of people not being ready for a disaster. Many children do not fully understand death and suffering. Explaining to them that these disasters are nothing to fool around with, and when there are warnings out such as tornadoes, tsunamis, wildfires, whatever teach young people to “LISTEN” and “ACT”. Many teenagers and young adults for example think of themselves as ‘indestructible’, a fatal re-occurrence that seems to be happening more and more often like that individual that was swept away on the west coast of the U.S. by the tsunami. Flood warnings are something especially ignored by those thrill seekers.

- The main thought to teach children is that the world is changing and there are going to be many more really dreadful times ahead that are going to be rough. Also that there is going to be someone there listening and helping is so all-important for the security of any child. The old song ‘Stand by me’ truly applies to all ages. People can survive and deal so much better when they have and when they know that there are people there for them no matter what when these nightmares happen.


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