Floods...Hurricanes... Hazardous Materials Spills...
strike quickly and without warning. These events can be frightening for
adults, but they are traumatic for children if they don't know what to
During a disaster, your family may have to leave your home and
daily routine. Children may become anxious, confused or frightened. As an
adult, you'll need to cope with the disaster in a way that will help
children avoid developing a permanent sense of loss. It is important to
give children guidance that will help them reduce their fears.
and Their Response to Disaster
Children depend on
daily routines. They wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, play with
friends. When emergencies or disasters interrupt this routine, children
may become anxious.
In a disaster, they'll look to you and other
adults for help. How you react to an emergency gives them clues on how to
act. If you react with alarm, a child may become more scared. They see our
fear as proof that the danger is real. If you seem overcome with a sense
of loss, a child may feel their losses more strongly.
fears also may stem from their imagination, and you should take these
feelings seriously. A child who feels afraid is afraid. Your words and
actions can provide reassurance. When talking with your child, be sure to
present a realistic picture that is both honest and manageable.
Feelings of fear are healthy and natural for adults and children. But as
an adult, you need to keep control of the situation. When you're sure that
danger has passed, concentrate on your child's emotional needs by asking
the child what's uppermost in his or her mind. Having children participate
in the family's recovery activities will help them feel that their life
will return to "normal." Your response during this time may have a lasting
Be aware that after a disaster, children are most afraid
- The event will happen again
- Someone will be injured or killed
- They will be separated from the family
- They will be left alone
to Parents: Prepare for Disaster
You can create a Family
Disaster Plan by taking four simple steps. First, learn what hazards exist
in your community and how to prepare for each. Then meet with your family
to discuss what you would do, as a group, in each situation.
take steps to prepare your family for disaster such as: posting emergency
phone numbers, selecting an out-of-state family contact, assembling
disaster supplies kits for each member of your household and installing
smoke detectors on each level of your home. Finally, practice your Family
Disaster Plan so that everyone will remember what to do when a disaster
- Develop and practice a Family Disaster Plan.
Contact your local emergency management or civil defense office,
or your local Red Cross chapter for materials that describe how
your family can create a disaster plan. Everyone in the household,
including children, should play a part in the family's response
and recovery efforts.
- Teach your child how to recognize danger
signals. Make sure your child knows what smoke detectors,
fire alarms and local community warning systems (horns, sirens)
- Explain how to call for help. Teach your
child how and when to call for help. Check the telephone directory
for local emergency phone numbers and post these phone numbers by
all telephones. If you live in a 9-1-1-service area, tell your
child to call 9-1-1.
- Help your child memorize important family
information. Children should memorize their family name,
address and phone number. They should also know where to meet in
case of an emergency. Some children may not be old enough to
memorize the information. They could carry a small index card that
lists emergency information to give to an adult or
the Disaster: Time for Recovery
Immediately after the
disaster, try to reduce your child's fear and anxiety. Keep the family
together. While you look for housing and assistance, you may want to leave
your children with relatives or friends. Instead, keep the family together
as much as possible and make children a part of what you are doing to get
the family back on its feet.
Children get anxious, and they'll
worry that their parents won't return. Calmly and firmly explain the
situation. As best as you can, tell children what you know about the
disaster. Explain what will happen next. For example, say, "Tonight, we
will all stay together in the shelter." Get down to the child's eye level
and talk to them. Encourage children to talk. Let children talk about the
disaster and ask questions as much as they want. Encourage children to
describe what they're feeling. Listen to what they say.
possible, include the entire family in the discussion. Include children in
recovery activities. Give children chores that are their responsibility.
This will help children feel they are part of the recovery. Having a task
will help them understand that everything will be all right.
can help children cope by understanding what causes their anxieties and
fears. Reassure them with firmness and love. Your children will realize
that life will eventually return to normal. If a child does not respond to
the above suggestions, seek help from a mental health specialist or a
member of the clergy.
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
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