Natural disasters cause loss of life and destruction of property. They cause both physical and emotional changes. Physically, natural disasters cause loss of homes, hospitals, property and schools. Emotionally, natural disasters cause psychological trauma and distress to victims. The process of recovery is difficult but important; victims are often faced with a long period of disillusionment before they can embrace the idea of reconstruction and a new beginning. Children are the ones who are worst affected by psychological trauma.
This paper will discuss how we can help families with children cope with the aftermath of the disaster. During a disaster, children are often frightened. Afterwards they may show temporary changes in their behaviors. Younger children would not want to be separated from their caregivers and may start bed-wetting or having nightmares. Older children exhibit sad or angry feelings and usually want to talk about their experiences which may interfere with their concentration at school. Teenagers may react by engaging in reckless and risk-taking behaviors while others become fearful and avoid engaging in social activities (Davies, n. d).
For most children, these changes are temporary and fade away with time but for others who are more vulnerable these changes are more severe and last longer. Children become more vulnerable if they experienced personal loss of a family member, close friend or pet. They are also more vulnerable in case they were directly exposed to the disaster or had a prior traumatic experience (Davies, n. d) In most cases, children are afraid that the disasters will occur again, someone who they are close to will be injured or killed and they will be left alone or loss their family.
So what can care-givers and parents do? Communication is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Parents should encourage their children to talk about what they feel. If a child finds it difficult to express his or her feelings and thoughts the parent should encourage them to tell a story or draw a picture of their feelings on what happened. This will enable the parent to understand the child’s feelings and help the child cope with his or her feelings (Baggerly & Exum, 2008) Parents and caregivers should listen to what their children have to say.
They should provide factual information about the disaster and information on plans to ensure their safety in case another disaster occurs. This will strengthen the child’s sense of security and safety. Caregivers should involve their children in the recovery process by giving them tasks that help in the restoration of both the family and community life. This helps the children keep their minds off the depression caused by the disaster (Lazuraz, Jimerson & Brock, 2003). Caregivers and parents should strive to spend more time with their kids after such disasters; this assures the children that their family is still intact and strong.
The parents should try to re-establish routines which were practiced daily, that is, school, work, meals, play and rest. This is a very important step in the recovery process that helps people take their minds off what happened (Baggerly & Exum, 2008). Monitoring the family’s exposure to the media is another step that should be taken by parents. News coverage and scenes of events that occurred during the disaster can cause anxiety and fear in children. Recovering children may divert back to post-disaster behaviors such as bed-wetting.
Watching the scenes of the disaster create an impression that the event is occurring over and over again. Parents should ensure they are present in order to provide answers and explanations for their children when watching news (Baggerly & Exum, 2008). Another major factor that determines how children react after a disaster is the reaction of the parents. Therefore it is paramount for parents to understand their individual feelings and come up with ways to cope (Lazuraz, Jimerson & Brock, 2003).
They can seek support from friends, family, religious institutions or community organizations. This enables the parents to maintain their serenity; calm parents provide better support to their children. It is also important for parents to get informed about emergency plans. They could call their local emergency management office and enquire about hazards in their communities. They should learn about their community response strategy, community warning system, evacuation routes and plans and nearby buildings which are designated to be shelters during disasters.
Parents should also enquire about emergency plans that are in existence in places where their families spend most time such as, schools, childcare centers and places of employment (Lazuraz, Jimerson & Brock, 2003). Families should discuss the hazards that could impact their local area and the community’s warning system. The family should then decide on where to meet when an emergency occurs. It is advisable for the family to have an out-of-town relative whom they can contact and let them know of their whereabouts incase of an emergency.
Members should also come up with a communication plan that enables family members to contact each other in the event of a disaster (Lazuraz, Jimerson & Brock, 2003). In conclusion, disasters are things that happen in every day life. They are devastating and unpredictable. It therefore falls on society as a whole to use all the resources available to prepare plans that will minimize losses in case a disaster occurs. According to research, people tend to cope better when they are prepared. Caregivers and parents should help their children come to terms with the reality of disasters and let them know that they can do something about it.
Reference: Baggerly, J. , & Exum, H A. (2008). Counseling children after natural disasters: guidance for family therapists. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 36: 79-93 Davies, L (n. d). Helping children cope after a natural disaster. Retrieved August 18, 2010 from, http://www. kellybear. com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip60. html Lazuraz, P. J. , Jimerson, S. R & Brock, S. E (2003). Helping children after a natural disaster: information for patients and teachers. Retrieved August 18, 2010 from, http://www. nasponline. org/resources/crisis_safety/naturaldisaster_ho. aspx
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