CHILDREN AND DISASTER RECOVERY
Most children can and do successfully recover from disaster, especially when they are in healthy, supportive environments. Here are some tips that can help children cope with disasters:
- Keep familiar routines to the extent possible.
- Take care of yourself: children do better when their caretakers are not stressed.
- Talk about the event with your child and as a family in an age appropriate manner.
- Engage children in play activities such as drawings and story telling
- Provide older children with constant updates of what is going on in regards to their ability to return to school and other activities that have been temporarily suspended.
- Notice changes in sleep, appetite, mood, and overall disposition.
- Do not expose children to news and/or images of the disaster.
- Provide opportunities for children to see friends and supportive adults.
- Encourage children to express their thoughts and feelings through words, play, writing, drawing, and other mediums as appropriate.
- Listen carefully and observe your child’s behavior.
- If you notice a significant change in your child’s behavior after 4 weeks, consider seeing a professional counsellor.
Children who are at most risk for negative reactions and delayed recovery in the disaster aftermath are those who have experienced: highly stressful evacuations that involved direct life threat; significant material or interpersonal loss; separation from parents; and intense parental stress reactions. These children should be most carefully monitored and families are encouraged to seek professional help as necessary.
- Top 10 Things to Know: Children in Disasters
- Tips for Parents of Children after the Storm – (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Tips for Parents of Youth after the Storm- (Centers for Disaease Control and Prevention)
- Common Stress Reactions Experienced by Children (1 – 18 years) after a Disaster
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services
Children’s Single Point of Access (CSPOA): 1-888-CSPOA-58 (1-888-277-6258)
The Children’s Aid Society, Mental Health
NJ State Dept. of Children & Families
COPING AFTER A DISASTER
In times of extreme traumatic events, it is very difficult to find a sense of normalcy in the chaos that surrounds you and your family. It is normal to have a strong emotional response.
Normal emotional responses to traumatic events:
- Shock and disbelief – you may have a hard time accepting the reality of what has happened
- Fear – that the same thing will happen again, or that you’ll lose control or break down
- Sadness – particularly if people you know died
- Helplessness – the sudden, unpredictable nature of natural disasters and accidents may leave you feeling vulnerable and helpless.
- Guilt – that you survived when others died, or that you could have done more to help or prevent the situation.
- Anger – you may be angry at those you feel are responsible or at the lack of a consolidated disaster response
- Shame – especially over feelings or fears you can’t control
- Relief – you may feel relieved that the worst is over, and even hopeful that your life will return to normal
The following links are some helpful survival tips that can help guide you through the process of recovery:
- Tips on Taking care if Your Family During Stressful and Traumatic Events (nyc.gov)
- Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Tips on Coping with Disasters and Other Stressful and Traumatic Events
- Help for All People in the First Days and Weeks after a Disaster- (National Institute of Mental Health)
- Tips for Adults after the Storm- (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Tips for Adult Healthy Relationships after the Storm- (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Disasters and Other Traumatic Events- (American Psychological Association)
HELPLINES AND HOTLINES
- If you are experiencing signs of distress as a result of the disaster, the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7 help, year-round crisis counseling and support. Please call 1-800-985-5990 , TTY for deaf/hearing impaired: 1-800-846-8517. Text/talk with us to 66746.
- American Red Cross – Get Assistance
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Is fully staffed to receive all calls. Please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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