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Talking to Children About Disasters

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Natural disasters can cause very real anxiety in children, even when they are not personally affected by them. "The need to feel safe, to feel protected, is a basic need of childhood," explains CHKD parent educator Sam Fabian. Fabian suggests the following tips to help minimize a child's fear and to help them feel safe.

  1. Remember to take time to think about and cope with your own feelings. Being able to remain calm and in control is the most powerful way to let your child know she is safe.
  2. Remind your child she is safe and comfort her as much as needed.
  3. Let your child tell her story and express her feelings and thoughts. This can be through stories, drawing or playing. Be sure to listen, label the feeling (you seem sad, or you seem scared) and honor what she says.
  4. Be honest and open when answering questions. The answers should be age-appropriate.
  5. Re-establish daily routines.
  6. Minimize media viewing of the event. Excessively watching and discussing the disaster will increase anxiety and fear.
  7. Until things calm down, it will be normal for children to show signs of worry and fear. Just like many adults, children may have trouble eating or sleeping. Two weeks from now, if your child still isn't eating or sleeping normally, or shows other warning signs such as extreme irritability, weepiness, lethargy and reluctance toward, or fear of activities she once enjoyed, call your pediatrician.

For more tips on helping your family cope with natural disasters or traumatic events visit:

(757) 668-7402

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