Helping Adolescents After a Disaster

September 22nd, 2009
  1. A disaster is frightening to all children and parents alike. It is important to emphasize your ability to cope with the situation but not to try and falsely reassure your child.
  2. Children and adults have both immediate and long-term responses to disaster. A child can reveal responses to a disaster even a year or two years later, sometimes even longer.
  3. A child’s age affects how they will respond to a disaster. For example; preschool children are more likely to show clingy behavior including difficulty separating from parents; school age children might develop problems at school; and adolescents problems with risk-taking. Physical problems (headaches, etc.) sleep disturbance and irritability are common reactions of all age groups.
  4. Children who have had difficulty before the disaster may develop the same problems again.
  5. A parent’s response and mood is important. An open attitude allows your child to express their fears.
  6. In discussing the disaster with your child, it is important to find out what they already know about it. Answering their questions is a good place to begin.
  7. Many children and adults have misconceptions about a disaster. Some of them are specific to a level of development. Talk to other parents with children the age of yours. Find out what they are doing and saying.
  8. Children may believe that something they did “caused” the disaster. It is important to discuss this misconception.
  9. Try to spend more time with your children after a disaster. It help everyone (parents, too) to cope with it.
  10. Hook in to post-disaster programs given by schools, churches and other organizations. Much is being learned about this important area.