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In the Face of Disaster

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Our world is a constantly changing place filled with both wonderful and sometimes horrendous events. We as adults often have difficulty coping with events but how can we help our children understand and deal with disasters? No matter what the event (both natural disasters and acts of war) it is likely that if a child is aware of the event they will be affected by it.


Children should be encouraged to talk about how they feel about what has happened. Allow them to share their fears and apprehensions.


If a child refuses to talk about their feelings or is too young to verbalize how they feel, ask them to draw pictures to uncover an idea of what is going on in their thoughts.


Constantly reassure your children that they are safe and that you, as a parent, are doing everything possible to protect them. You may also explain that public services such as the police, fire department, and the American Red Cross are also there to keep your family safe.


Be honest with your children when they ask questions. Try to speak on their level and use words and examples that they can understand and identify with. Remember too, that there is no shame in acknowledging that there are some things that nobody can explain.


Monitor your children’s behavior and mood. Fear, anxiety, and anger are normal reactions to tragic events. However, if the feelings continue or are followed by excessive anxiety or fear, changes in sleep patterns, or problems interacting with other children or school, you should speak with your doctor or consult a mental health professional.


Our media technology can also be overwhelming for a child to process events as they are happening. Monitor your children’s television viewing habits. Watching constant coverage of a tragic event fills their mind with frightening images. Turn the television off and read with them – don’t forget they are still children.


Keep your children’s daily routine as consistent as possible. Familiar people, places, and things provide a level of security and comfort that is reassuring.

And as always, share your feelings of love with your children. As a parent, you are the center of your child’s universe. That love, above all else, will help guide your family through anything.

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