April 26, 2011

Helping Children Cope with Natural Disasters

If you live in the St. Louis area your family has probably been effected in one way or another by the recent tornadoes. Natural disasters such as these tornadoes can make children feel anxious and afraid. Whether they’ve personally experienced the tornado, seen the TV coverage or heard it discussed by adults, they may be struggling to make sense of what they are seeing and hearing. They may have nightmares, physical reactions such as headaches and stomachaches, become clingy and be afraid to go to school.

What You Can Do To Help Your Child:

Provide comfort and reassurance that they’re safe. Say things like, “I’ll always try to protect you,” or “Adults are working very hard to make things safe.” Remind children that tragedy’s such as these tornadoes are very rare.

Limit the amount of TV and internet coverage they see. Images of the tornado and the damage can be very frightening to children.

Encourage them to express their feelings about the tornado through talking, drawing or letter writing.

Do something as a family to help those who were affected by the tornado.

Talk with your children about how to prepare for tornadoes and other natural disasters. Make sure your child knows what smoke detectors, fire alarms and community sirens sound like and what to do when they hear them.

Help your children identify what they have done in the past that helped them cope when they were scared. Talk about other communities that have experienced natural disasters and how they have recovered.

Take note of your own reactions. Your reaction to the tornado and your adjustment to the aftermath contribute to the adjustment and coping ability of your children.

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