Helping Young Children After a Disaster
As we watch continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the related flooding, it is important to remember that young children may be especially affected by disasters. Families and others who care for young children need to provide comfort, reassurance, and stability.
The most important thing families and other adults can do is make sure children aren't over-exposed to media coverage of the disaster. More than any other action, avoiding media coverage will protect children from confusing and disturbing images.
When young children witness troubling events, directly or on television, they are likely to feel afraid and confused. Images of destruction and suffering can cause high anxiety and even panic. Young children are most fearful when they do not understand what is happening around them. Their strong feelings and reactions are natural and should be expected.
Helping children deal with their reactions to the devastation can be challenging when adults are struggling with their own feelings. However, we should remember that young children are very perceptive and will quickly recognize and respond to the fear and anxiety that adults are experiencing.
The following strategies can help families and other adults give children emotional support and show them that they are safe in our care.
reassurance through physical closeness.
children's interest in talking about the disaster.
Offer experiences that help children release tension.
Give worried children more time for relaxing, therapeutic experiences such as playing with sand, water, clay, and play dough.
Provide plenty of time and opportunities for children to work out their concerns and feelings through dramatic play. In dramatic play, children can pretend that they are big and strong to gain control over their trauma and to overcome feelings of helplessness.
Spend more time outdoors, at the gym, or in the park so children have opportunities for physical activity that provides an emotional release.
changes in behavior.
Take care of