When the Southern Alberta floods overtook much of our province there was nothing anyone could do but watch, and wait it out. The news channels were constantly displaying pictures and footage of our province underwater as everyone watched helplessly until the water receded. Adults felt a sense of grief, helplessness, and uncertainty.
Children also felt these emotions but on a different level, for they could not fully comprehend what was happening. A child’s reaction to a natural disaster consists of increased anxiety, and the influx of emotional or behavioral problems. Younger children may revert back to earlier behavior problems, such as bed wetting or separation anxiety. Older children express their reaction to disaster through increased aggression or withdrawal.
It’s important to note that even children who were not directly in contact with the disaster will still have unresolved feelings afterwards.
Here are our five tips to help your child cope with a natural disaster:
1) Be calm, honest, and caring: Children often imitate the way adults react to a disaster or an emergency. Maintaining a sense of control will help a child through this time of uncertainty. Make sure your relationship with your child is incredibly supportive, and help children understand their reactions. It’s important to take care of yourself. The less stressed you are, the less stressed your child will be.
2) Encourage children to talk about the floods: Make sure children have a safe and supporting environment to discuss what happened. A variety of methods can be used such as art, stories, or drama. Afterwards, promote positive coping and problem solving skills. If you are unsure of how to get your child to start sharing, come see us at Calgary Counselling Centre.
3) Re-establish a routine: If you and your child had to relocate, there are certain things you must keep in mind so that the process does not impact your child’s mental health. You should provide opportunities for your children to see their friends, make sure comfort items from your previous location have been transported (if available), and establish daily routines so that children know what to expect each coming day.
4) Children process traumatic events at their own pace: Do not judge one child’s reaction and don’t expect them to all be the same. Make sure you are available on more than one occasion to discuss how your child may be feeling. Some will want to spend time with family members and friends, while other may want to talk to only you. Make sure you and your child know that it is normal to experience an array of emotions following a natural disaster including: sadness, guilt, anger, and anxiety.
5) Seek support: Calgary Counselling Centre is here to help.
Contact us at www.calgarycounselling.com to register for counselling online.
At Calgary Counselling Centre we have counsellors specifically trained to help youth through behavioural or emotional issues as the result of trauma or disaster. We are here to help.