to Tell Your Children about Disasters
It is important to warn children, without overly
alarming them, about disasters. Tell children
that a disaster is something that could hurt people
or cause damage. Explain that nature sometimes
provides “too much of a good thing”
– fire, rain, or wind. Talk about things
that could happen during a storm, like the fact
that the lights or phone might not work. Tell
children there are many people who can help them
during a disaster, so that they will not be afraid
of firemen, policemen, paramedics, or other emergency
YOUR CHILDREN FOR A DISASTER
How to call for help.
When to use emergency numbers.
To call the family contact if they are separated.
in an Emergency
The most important role a parent can play in an emergency
situation is to stay calm. Children of all ages can easily
pick up on their parents’ fears and anxieties. In
a disaster, they’ll look to you for help and for
clues on how to act. If you react with alarm, a child
may become more scared. If you seem overcome with a sense
of loss, a child may feel their losses more strongly.
Experts agree that you should be honest with your children
and explain what’s going on. Just be sure to base
the amount of information and level of detail on what’s
appropriate for their age level.
and Their Response to Disaster
Children depend on daily routines: They wake up, eat breakfast,
go to school, and play with friends. When emergencies
or disasters interrupt this routine, children may become
anxious; not want parents out of their sight/refuse to
go to school or child care; or feel guilty that they caused
the disaster by something they said or did. Children’s
fears also may stem from their imagination, and you should
take these feelings seriously. Your words and actions
can provide reassurance. When talking with your child,
be sure to present a realistic picture that is both honest
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
Child Behaviors after a Disaster:
Children may be upset over the loss of a favorite toy,
blanket, teddy bear or other items; undergo a personality
change–from being quiet, obedient and caring to
loud, noisy and aggressive or from outgoing to shy and
afraid; have nightmares or be afraid to sleep alone or
with the light off; become easily upset, cry or whine;
lose trust in adults because the adults in their life
were unable to control the disaster; or revert to younger
behavior such as bedwetting and thumb sucking.
Needs of Children after a Disaster:
Parents should remember that the psychological effects
of a natural disaster don’t go away once the emergency
has passed. Children can suffer from nightmares or other
problems for years after a disaster. Children are better
able to cope with a traumatic event if parents, teachers
and other adults support and help them with their experiences.
should start as soon as possible after the event. Some
children may never show distress because they don’t
feel upset, while others may not give evidence of being
upset for several weeks or even months. Even if children
do not show a change in behavior, they may still need
your help. Parents should be on the lookout for signs
that their kids need some extra counseling.
Parents Can Do to Help Children Cope after a Disaster
Talk with children about how they are feeling
and listen without judgment.
Let them know they can have their own feelings,
which might be different than others.
Let children take their time to figure things
out and to have their feelings.
Don’t rush them or pretend that they don’t
think or feel as they do.
Here are some suggested ways to reduce
your child’s fear and anxiety:
Keep the family together as much as possible.
While you look for housing and assistance, try to keep
the family together and make children a part of what you
are doing. Otherwise, children could get anxious and 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.
children to talk. Let them talk about the disaster and
ask questions as much as they want. Encourage children
to describe what they’re feeling. Help them learn
to use words that express their feelings, such as happy,
sad, angry, mad and scared. Just be sure the words fit
their feelings–not yours.
to what they say. If possible, include the entire family
in the discussion. Reassure them that the disaster was
not their fault in any way. Assure fearful children that
you will be there to take care of them. Children should
not be expected to be brave or tough, or to “not
children in recovery activities. Give children chores
that are their responsibility. This will help children
feel they are part of the recovery. Having a tasks help
children feel empowered and give them a way to feel in
control and useful.
back as soon as possible to former routines. Maintain
a regular schedule for children.
them have some control, such as choosing what outfit to
wear or what meal to have for dinner.
special privileges such as leaving the light on when they
sleep for a period of time after the disaster.
ways to emphasize to the children that you love them.
off the TV
Once you arrive at a shelter, hotel, or a relative’s
home, disaster related TV programs should be restricted.
News coverage of disasters?—especially if children
see their own town or school on TV–can be traumatic
to children of all ages. If children watch TV coverage
of the disaster, parents should watch with them and talk
about it afterwards.
to Get Children Talking about a Disaster
Encourage children to draw or paint pictures of how they
feel about their experiences. Write a story together of
the event. You might start with: Once upon a time there
was a terrible ______ and it scared us all ______. This
is what happened: ______.
End the story with how things are getting better.
to Get Your Family Ready Before a Disaster
It’s important for all family members to
know how to react in an emergency, because when
a disaster strikes, you may need to act quickly.
Discuss possible disaster plans with your children
in a very general way so that they will know what
to do in various situations, especially earthquakes,
Remember that it is possible that you and your
children may be in different places when a disaster
strikes; for example at school and work. Also,
older children may be home alone when faced with
Family Disaster Plan
You can create a Family Disaster Plan by taking some simple
steps. It’s important for all family members to
know how to react in an emergency because the best protection
is knowing what to do.
Talk with your children
about the dangers of disasters that are likely in your
area and how to prepare for each type.
Make sure they know
where to go in your home to stay safe during an earthquake,
tornado, hurricane, or other disasters likely for your
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) sound like and what to
do when they hear them.
Explain to children
how and when to call for help. Keep emergency phone numbers
(your local Emergency Phone Number List) where family
members can find them.
Pick an out-of-state
family contact person who family members can “check-in”
with if you are separated during an emergency. For children
who are old enough help them to memorize the person’s
name and phone number, or give them a copy of the emergency
list included in the kit.
Agree on a meeting
place away from your home (a neighbor or relative’s
house or even a street corner) where you would get together
if you were separated in an emergency. Give each family
member an emergency list with the name, address and phone
number of the meeting place. For children who are old
enough help them to memorize the person’s name,
address and phone number.
Put together a disaster
supplies kit for your family.
Practice your Family
Disaster Plan every six months so that everyone will remember
what to do when in an emergency.
It's important for all family members to know how to react
in an emergency because the best protection is knowing
what to do.
Get Ready Kit
Assemble a special "Get Ready Kit: for kids.
Explain to your children that you might need to
leave your house during a disaster and sleep somewhere
else for a while.
are some items you can your children could put
into a backpack or container so it will be ready
A few favorite books, crayons, and paper.
Favorite small toys like dolls or action figures.
A board game.
A desk of cards.
A favorite stuffed animal.
A favorite blanket or pillow.
A picture of your family and pets.
A box with special treasures that will help you