Reassurance, calm can help children cope with floodNatural disasters take their toll on children as well.
By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM
Natural disasters take their toll on children as well.
Following the flood, children may behaviorally act out, says Steve Saum, clinical supervisor at The Village Family Service Center in Fargo.
They may withdraw and isolate themselves, have changes in appetite, not sleep or have nightmares, Saum said.
It’s important to be a calm presence and reassure the child that everything that can be done is being done or has been done to keep him or her safe.
“Parents need to be aware that kids will sense their anxiety and fear,” Saum says.
Parents should be strong for their children, Saum says, and give honest, simple answers to any questions they may have.
It’s a time of uncertainty, so provide as much consistency as possible.
“I think it’s just extra attention, love and support,” Saum says.
Depending on the extent of the flood, children may experience loss – of a school, favorite playground, or their home.
They need to be reminded that it will take time to rebuild things physically and to feel normal again, Saum says.
“Things may trigger feelings and emotions,” he says. “They should talk to their parents when that happens.”
A transitional object, such as a special toy or photograph, can help provide a sense of security for the child.
But parents and caregivers will be able to provide the most reassurance.
“Again, I think trying to stay calm in the midst of all this, which is hard for all of us, but I think that’s really important,” Saum says.
FEMA offers these suggestions for things parents and other adults can do:
- Talk with the children about how they are feeling and listen without judgment. Let them know they can have their own feelings.
- Stay together as a family as much as possible.
- Go back as soon as possible to former routines, or develop new ones.
- Let them have some control, such as choosing which outfit to wear or what meal to have for dinner.
- Reassure the child the disaster was not their fault in any way.
- Don’t give the child more information than he or she can handle about the flood.
- Don’t minimize the event.
- Encourage children to draw or paint pictures about their experiences and feelings.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 235-7311