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Children's Voice Article, Vol. 4, #4

Children and Disasters: What Caring Adults Can Do

Empower Children Before Disaster Strikes

  • Make sure adults and children know what to do and where to go during earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and other disasters.
  • Practice emergency procedures with the children.
  • Post emergency phone numbers.
  • Teach children when to dial 911 and how to recognize fire alarms and other warning systems.
  • Let children know that you care about their safety.
  • Stock up-to-date safety kits (first aid, bottled water, batteries).

Protect Children During a Disaster

  • Don't leave children alone.
  • Ensure children's safety as you implement your emergency plan.
  • Reassure children that you will protect them and that they are prepared to cope.
  • Contact state and local emergency authorities.

Help Children Recover After a Disaster

  • Check damage and pick up broken glass or fallen furniture. Involve older children in clean-up activities.
  • Reassure children with your caring presence.
  • Praise them for how well they coped and answer their questions about the event.
  • Provide structure and limits.
  • Don't hurry children through activities.
  • Defuse children's fears of disaster, injury, death, separation, or abandonment. Encourage and accept emotional venting.
  • Recognize posttraumatic stress in children and which children may need intervention.
  • Post numbers of child and teen hotlines.
  • Care for yourself so you can care for others: sleep, eat, and talk out your feelings.

After a Disaster...

Young children may:
  • Fear sleeping alone, loud noises, rain, storms, attending school, etc.
  • Fail to fall or stay asleep
  • Experience nightmares
  • Develop aches and pains
  • Become more active, restless, aggressive, or irritable
  • Become quiet, withdrawn, unwilling to speak about their worries
  • Regress to sucking their thumbs, wetting the bed, asking for a bottle, clinging to adults and wanting to be held
Older children may:
  • Demand "me first" (It's natural to think of ourselves during a disaster)
  • Experience flashbacks
  • Feel insecure, anxious, moody
  • Repress memories of the event
  • Develop aches and pains
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