Helping Children though Disasters

Children experience disasters from a different perspective then adults do.  Take some time to plan and prepare for their unique needs during a disaster.

Before an incident
  • Teach children about the emergencies and disasters they might face before they happen.
  • Use your emergency plan regularly to practice with them what they should do when various disasters strike.  Answer questions and teach them why we take certain actions, while there is time to explain.
  • Prepare emergency kits with children in mind. Include appropriate snacks, activities, and equipment for them to use.
  • Find out what things are most important or comforting to them, make a list of these things to take along in you are able (evacuation, emergency trip to grandma's, etc.)
  • Children may have unique needs that need to be stocked up.  Your emergency kit should include items like diapers and wipes, formula and bottles, toys and extra clothes, and child dosed medications.
During an incident
  • Allow children to ask questions and try to talk openly with them about what they are experiencing.
  • Give them specific instructions and reasons for your actions, if you are able.  Children are very literal.
  • Reassure them that you are all working to stay safe.  Don't give them false promises and assurances.
  • Give them supplies and equipment to allow them to "help." (Planning ahead for kids to have a flashlight, a water bottle, and a snack bag from your kit will go a long way to providing them with security and purpose.)
  • Unless it's impossible, stay close to your child.  What makes sense logistically ("You stay here, I'll be right back.") may be terrifying to a child (and even to some adults.) Plan ahead to enable staying together.
 After an incident
  • Talk with children about what they experienced.  Be ready to do this on their timetable.  Children often imagine and believe much worse things than the truth.
  • Be open and truthful about losses (homes, lives, etc.) without offering overwhelming details.
  • Allow them to talk about, draw and play what they experienced and imagined.  They may want to involve you in the play, be ready to follow their lead.  Ask them what they want you to do.
  • Know that they are experiencing great amounts of stress, too.  They may display impatience, bad behavior and new (or old) habits like thumb sucking, bed wetting, or picky eating.  Let this go for a while,
  • If you need help talking to a child or dealing with reactions after a crisis, get help.  Start with your child's doctor and continue to seek help until you and your child are satisfied.

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