First it was this monster earthquake, followed quickly by the tsunami. Now there's the possibility of nuclear disaster. Normally the effects of a trauma are related to how far away one is. But with TV bringing intense images right into our homes 24/7, we are all affected -- our children, even more so.
The emotional effects of watching such a catastrophe can be tremendous. Children and teens can feel especially helpless when they see these images of the devastation, including homeless and injured Japanese children and orphans on the news. Kids also absorb worry and sadness from their parents, or from classmates who have family ties in Japan.
One of the difficulties experienced by parents is that they have not had adequate time to deal with their own reactions when they are called upon to deal with the impact on their children..
Emotional reactions vary in nature and severity from child to child. Their responses to a disaster are determined by age, previous experiences, temperament and personality, as well as the immediacy of the disaster to their own lives.
If you know a child who is showing signs of worry, stress or fear that may be related to the Japanese earthquake and its aftermath -- such as stomachaches, sleeplessness, bedwetting, or moodiness -- I'd like to offer some ideas about how to help kids comprehend and deal with such a catastrophe.
Tips To Help A Child Cope
- Talk to your children and provide simple, accurate information to questions.
- Allow them to tell and draw their stories about what happened. Drawing is cathartic and helps release some of their inside upsets.
- Talk with your children about your own feelings. Be brief -- don't over-share.
- Listen to what your children say, and how they say it. Try to acknowledge the underlying feelings in their words and their actions. For example: "I can see it makes you sad to think about all the people who were hurt by this earthquake and tsunami." This helps both you and your child clarify feelings.
- Reassure your child: "We are safe. We are together. We will take care of you."
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