Helping Your Child Cope with Disaster

It is very normal for children to be afraid, especially after a violent storm that has caused tremendous damage and/or injury. The fear may last for an extended period of time and is best dealt with by kindness and understanding on the part of the parents. Children should be encouraged to talk about their feelings and otherwise express their fears through play, drawing, painting, or clay/playdough.

Research indicates that children's fears vary according to age, maturation, and previous learning experiences. Four major fears common in children are: death, darkness, animals, and abandonment. In experiencing a hurricane or tornado, children may encounter three out of the four major fears. Undoubtedly, this will have an impact on their ability to cope for quite some time.

Another important aspect about children's fears indicated in current research is that "fears may be intensified when adults back away from discussing the topic with children. Many families ban all painful topics from family conversation. Such mutual protection strategies reap high costs in terms of intensified despair and negativity among children." To help children cope with fears, especially those who have experienced a violent natural disaster, one of the most important steps adults can take is to share the time to talk with children.

Following a disaster, some children may: