Children And Disasters

Children’s disaster-related fears and anxieties are very real to them.

Young children do not express their fears verbally but through their behaviour.

Changes in behaviour may include:

  • Nail biting
  • Bed wetting
  • Thumb sucking
  • Rocking or holding onto a blanket or toy
  • Clinging behaviours, nightmares, refusing  to sleep
  • Screaming, shaking, crying

How parents can help:

  • Take their fears seriously.
  • Comfort young children with physical care, holding and hugging.
  • Encourage children to express themselves through play or drawing.
  • Keep the family together as much as possible.
  • Include the children in recovery activities.
  • Give children information that they can understand.
  • Relax rules but maintain family structure and responsibilities.

Adolescents and disaster

In disasters, adolescents can sometimes be involved in rescue and this may compound their level of trauma. They are survivors and also rescuers, until more organized help arrives. Frequently, they are exposed as witnesses to injury and death, as well as the physical devastation of their community.

Reactions may include:

  • Withdrawal, isolation, or depression
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness,  worthlessness
  • Academic failures
  • Sleep disturbances, headaches,  loss of appetite

Ways to help:

  • Involving teens in clean-up activities
  • Assisting the elderly with errands
  • Babysitting for families busy with
    rebuilding activities
  • Organizing play activities for younger  children
  • Peer counseling, teen call-in phone line
  • Social activities such as dances, athletics, etc.