The effects of emergency threat on children often worry parents and adults. However, children take their lead from how they see adults managing. They are often just as able to cope with the crisis as adults, although they do it in their own way. It is important to trust your children’s common sense, knowledge and emotional strength and your own knowledge of them. They need you to have faith in them. The majority of people (children included) behave sensibly and reasonably in a crisis, given their understanding of the situation and their knowledge. Therefore equip them with accurate factual information about the threat and give them accurate advice about what to do. Children show their courage by what they do, even if they express fear. If they are afraid; they need the chance to express it and for you to support and encourage them without losing confidence in their ability to cope. Children have untapped strength and are very resilient; with adult support they recover well from emergency stress.
Helping children under threat
- Remain calm; it may be very difficult but try to avoid displaying unnecessary distress.
- Be real, explain what adults are feeling and doing – they usually already can see for themselves.
- Keep updating them and explaining what is happening in simple words so they can understand it.
- Explain what you are doing to keep them safe, show how your knowledge helps meet the threat.
- Get them to talk about what they think might happen and correct any wrong ideas.
- Give them things to do to help however you can so they feel useful, even if just to keep watch.
- Reassure them that they are brave, will manage well and you are confident in them. Remind them that many people are trying to help and will come when they can.
- Show affection and comfort them when they are upset, then encourage them to meet the threat.
There is also some great information here from the Ministry of Education, and another great information sheet that has been put together by the employee assistance people at Telecom NZ.