Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. The emotional toll that disasters bring can sometimes be even more devastating than the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business or personal property.
Children, senior citizens, people with access or functional needs, and people for whom English is not their first language are especially at risk. Children may become afraid and some elderly people may seem disoriented at first. People with access or functional needs may require additional assistance. We will cover how to cope with disasters in the following areas:
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Children and older adults are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters. Even individuals who experience a disaster second hand through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.
Contact local faith-based organizations, voluntary agencies, or professional counselors for counseling. Additionally, FEMA and state and local governments of the affected area may provide crisis counseling assistance.
As you recover, it is a good idea to make sure that you have updated your family disaster plan and replenished essential disaster supplies just in case a disaster happens again. You will always feel better knowing that you are prepared and ready for anything. Also, keep the following in mind:
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When adults show the following signs, they might need crisis counseling or stress management assistance:
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The following are ways to ease natural disaster-related stress:
Ensure you are ready for future events by restocking your disaster supplies kits and updating your family disaster plan. Doing these positive actions can be comforting.Contact Ground Zero Shelters if you have any questions.
Disasters can leave kids feeling frightened, confused, and insecure. Whether a child has personally experienced trauma, has merely seen the event on television or has heard it discussed by adults, it is important for parents and teachers to be informed and ready to help if reactions to stress begin to occur.
Children may respond to disaster by demonstrating fears, sadness or behavioral problems. Younger children may return to earlier behavior patterns, such as bed wetting, sleep problems and separation anxiety. Older children may also display anger, aggression, school problems or withdrawal. Some children who have only indirect contact with the disaster but witness it on television may develop distress.
For many children, reactions to disasters are brief and represent normal reactions to "abnormal events." A smaller number of children can be at risk for more enduring psychological distress as a function of three major risk factors:
In most cases, depending on the risk factors above, distressing responses are temporary. In the absence of severe threat to life, injury, loss of loved ones, or secondary problems such as loss of home, moves, etc., symptoms usually diminish over time. For those that were directly exposed to the disaster, reminders of the disaster such as high winds, smoke, cloudy skies, sirens, or other reminders of the disaster may cause upsetting feelings to return. Having a prior history of some type of traumatic event or severe stress may contribute to these feelings.
Children’s coping with disaster or emergencies is often tied to the way parents cope. They can detect adults’ fears and sadness. Parents and adults can make disasters less traumatic for children by taking steps to manage their own feelings and plans for coping. Parents are almost always the best source of support for children in disasters. One way to establish a sense of control and to build confidence in children before a disaster is to engage and involve them in preparing a family disaster plan. After a disaster, children can contribute to a family recovery plan.
Kid’s reactions are influenced by the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of adults. Adults should encourage children and adolescents to share their thoughts and feelings about the incident. Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger by listening to children’s concerns and answering questions. Maintain a sense of calm by validating children’s concerns and perceptions and with discussion of concrete plans for safety.
Listen to what the child is saying. If a young child is asking questions about the event, answer them simply without the elaboration needed for an older child or adult. Some children are comforted by knowing more or less information than others; decide what level of information your particular child needs. If a child has difficulty expressing feelings, allow the child to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened.
Try to understand what is causing anxieties and fears. Be aware that following a disaster, children are most afraid that:
Suggestions to help reassure children include the following:
If you have tried to create a reassuring environment by following the steps above, but your child continues to exhibit stress, if the reactions worsen over time, or if they cause interference with daily behavior at school, at home, or with other relationships, it may be appropriate to talk to a professional. You can get professional help from the child’s primary care physician, a mental health provider specializing in children’s needs, or a member of the clergy.
News coverage related to a disaster may elicit fear and confusion and arouse anxiety in children. This is particularly true for large-scale disasters where significant property damage and loss of life has occurred. Particularly for younger children, repeated images of an event may cause them to believe the event is recurring over and over.
If parents allow children to watch television or use the Internet where images or news about the disaster are shown, parents should be with them to encourage communication and provide explanations. This may also include parent’s monitoring and appropriately limiting their own exposure to anxiety-provoking information.
Parents help their children when they take steps to understand and manage their own feelings and ways of coping. They can do this by building and using social support systems of family, friends, community organizations and agencies, faith-based institutions, or other resources that work for that family. Parents can build their own unique social support systems so that in an emergency situation or when a disaster strikes, they can be supported and helped to manage their reactions. As a result, parents will be more available to their children and better able to support them. Parents are almost always the best source of support for children in difficult times. But to support their children, parents need to attend to their own needs and have a plan for their own support.
Preparing for disaster helps everyone in the family accept the fact that disasters do happen, and provides an opportunity to identify and collect the resources needed to meet basic needs after disaster. Preparation helps; when people feel prepared, they cope better and so do children.
The compassion and generosity of the American people is never more evident than after a disaster. People want to help. Here are some general guidelines on helping others after a disaster:
Financial contributions to a recognized disaster relief organization are the most effective donation to make.
When the public supports these voluntary organizations with financial contributions, it helps ensure a steady flow of important services to the people in need after a disaster.
Volunteer with a recognized organization involved in disaster response and recovery prior to the next disaster event.
The generosity and kindness of people around the country does a lot to help communities heal from the tragic consequences of disasters.
Learn ways that you can effectively help others after a disaster. Please note that it is best to confirm what is needed before taking action.
Everyone is moved when they hear the news that disaster has struck a community. By learning the best ways to donate and volunteer, we can all make a huge difference in the lives of those affected.
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