Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, but also other disastrous events such as explosions or fires can cause confusing states of children, extremely strong feelings of fear and insecurity. Whether the child experiences personal trauma, watches it on TV or participates in discussions between different people, parents must always be prepared to have such discussions with their children.
What behavior does the child have when facing disaster?
Children have different behaviors in the face of these frightening events. Mostly:
they are overwhelmed by strong feelings of sadness;
they have behavioral disorders: some may exhibit behavioral patterns specific to young children, such as bed wetting, sleep problems, etc .;
they are filled with strong feelings of anxiety;
they may have behavioral problems (both at school and at home);
they can become aggressive;
could manifest denial as a form of defense;
How does the child react to disasters according to age?
Babies (0-2 years)
When the children have not developed the language very well, they cannot express their feelings verbally. This further increases the child's anxiety level. Even if he does not speak he memorizes images, sounds and even smells that influence his condition.
Babies react to disasters by:
shots so intense;
the desire to be held tight in the arms.
To overcome these events, it is essential for babies how to emotionally endure these disasters. This directly influences them and can help them either to overcome or to accentuate their trauma.
Preschoolers (3-6 years old)
Preschoolers experience feelings of helplessness in the face of these natural disasters. They realize that they have nothing to do, and this overwhelms them. They feel at such times:
feelings of insecurity;
fear of not being separated from parents.
You might notice that in the weeks after the event, your little one gets involved in games that exactly reconstruct those events, remaining deeply marked by them.
Schoolchildren (7-10 years old)
At this age, children are already aware and know what it means to lose a loved one. They have this feeling of permanent loss. You might find that your little one shows a keen interest in the details of the event and would like to talk about these topics always. The trauma caused by the calamity may interfere with the child's school performance, and in the rest you may notice:
feelings of fear;
fear that disaster will happen again;
feelings of guilt about how he acted / did not act in the face of disaster;
anger that the event could not have been prevented.
Pre-adolescents and adolescents (11-18 years)
As they grow older, children develop a way of understanding the increasingly complicated calamities. These are emotionally involved in the event:
there is the risk of developing a dangerous behavior of the post-event child: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc .;
others develop agoraphobia (fear of living in open spaces, of getting out of the house);
some of them are overwhelmed by the intense emotions caused by the event and refuse to talk to others about it;
Conditions in which children are severely affected by disasters
For many children, disaster response is short-lived and represents normal responses to "abnormal" events. Children may have stronger trauma or not depending on how exposed to these natural disasters or not:
direct exposure and participation in the disaster affects them very strongly - the child actively participates in the evacuation of the respective areas, sees injured or even dead, hears screams and reactions of fear from others, etc .;
when dealing with the loss of a close person - suffering caused by the death or serious injury of a family member;
the side effects of a calamity increase the anxiety level of the children and they can become traumatized by changing the environment and lifestyle: moving to another city, losing friends and social relations, losing the sense of personal property, financial problems of parents, etc.
How do you help your child cope with the emotions of a calamity?
The behavior of the children is influenced by the behavior, thinking and feelings of the adults around him. Parents should encourage the little ones to talk about their feelings and thoughts about the painful event they witnessed. Help him understand the risk and danger by listening to the child's concerns and answering them honestly with the questions he asks. In the case of small children it is essential to formulate simple and not very elaborate answers.
Listen, but carefully, everything a child tells you after the event, no matter how bizarre or meaningless it may seem. Some may talk more about the event, and others may close in and hide their feelings.
If your little one is not talking about the feelings you are experiencing, use other methods to help him / her release these feelings: have him / her draw what he or she feels or tell you a story about what happened.
It is essential for a parent to understand what is the cause of his anxiety. Be aware that a child who is going through a natural disaster may be afraid that:
the event could be repeated;
someone close to them could be hurt or even die;
will be separated from his family;
will remain alone.
How do you calm a child right after a disaster?
immediate personal contact is essential - take it in your arms and handle it to feel as safe as possible;
talk to him by giving him information about the rescue plan and why it will continue to happen in order to feel safe and assure him that everything will be fine, to increase his mental comfort;
encourages the child to talk about what he or she feels;
spend more time than usual with your little one after the event;
try to return as soon as possible after the disaster to your usual routine: at work, school, play, walks, etc .;
involves the child in activities and tasks that help the family recover after the event and the community returns to normal; will feel useful;
be aware and prepare your little one to show all kinds of reactions immediately after the event, etc.
Tags Natural catastrophes children's emotions Children's reactions natural disasters Children's emotions Children's communication