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.
In the hours, days and weeks ahead you may come across instances where people are worried, anxious, frightened, or just uncertain about their experiences and futures. You may be feeling like this yourself. Some will have experienced damage to their property which means that they cannot live where they normally live. Others may have experienced injury – whether to themselves, or their loved ones. And this injury could be physical or non-physical, visible or non-visible. What we know from the research is that most people will be ok, especially if they have their usual resources to draw upon – especially their social networks and experience with coping with adversity successfully before in their lives. Others will need more support.
This site provides information to help you to help yourself and others.
As a result of the work that I have done to develop the NZ Government’s psychosocial support response in emergency events, I’ve been inspired to set up this new blog on support after the quake – please check in regularly for bite-sized advice and tips to help you recognise some of the new and unsettling thoughts, feelings and behaviours that you and others around you might be seeing or going through, and how to help yourself and others.
I’m happy for you to share this information with whoever you think might find it useful. Just check with me through the comments function if it will be used for press or media purposes. Always happy to receive feedback too. Thanks.