Since September, Primrose Schools® has been sharing information and resources from national partner Save the Children® and its Get Ready. Get Safe. initiative to help families get prepared for emergencies. Each week has brought parents closer to completing the Get Ready. Get Safe Family Plan Checklist and to getting their children and family better prepared in the event of an emergency. This blog post marks the last post in the nine-week series.
In the aftermath of a stressful event, every member of your family may react differently. Young children can be profoundly affected by an emergency or disaster, and they likely don’t yet have the coping skills needed to handle these new and distressing feelings.
As parents, we are our child’s biggest influence and primary protector. It is our job to make sure our children feel safe even when they may be feeling confused or insecure. Knowing how you can help your child cope with the emotions that follow a crisis can bring some relief during a time when you’ll be dealing with your own distress and difficult circumstances.
Following are seven ways you can help your child cope with a traumatic event:
1. Recognize and manage your own feelings. To truly help your child navigate her feelings after a crisis, you must tune into your own feelings and turn to your family, friends and community for support. Once you can manage and cope with your feelings, you can exude a sense of calm and stability, which shows your child that you are there to keep her safe.
2. Limit media. Limit or prevent exposure to information that can overwhelm children. Turn off news coverage on the TV and radio and keep newspapers out of reach. You also can request that your friends and family do not discuss the scary event around your child.
3. Respond to and validate your child’s feelings. Listen carefully to your child and find out what he knows and understands about the disaster. Help him identify his feelings by naming them (scared, sad, angry, etc.) and encourage expression of feelings by drawing, painting or pretend play. Validate your child’s feelings and let him know that it’s normal to feel emotions like anger, fear, or sadness after a crisis. Also, give your child extra time and attention so he knows he is safe.
4. Return to a normal routine. Getting your child back into as normal a routine as possible with a regular schedule and activities with peers will help provide her with a sense of normalcy and stability.
5. Pay attention to your child’s behavior. During stressful times, children may exhibit behaviors like loss of appetite, increased clinginess, greater fear of separation or acting withdrawn. Some regressive behaviors can be expected in times of stress, but parents should keep a watchful eye and seek professional help if these behaviors last beyond a couple of months.
6. Remain patient and calm. Your child needs you to stay calm and in control so that he feels safe, even when he may be clingy, whiny or aggressive. This is why it’s so important to seek time to cope and understand your own feelings after a crisis.
7. Answer questions. Although you should protect your child from information beyond her understanding, it’s important to provide just the right amount of clarity that she needs to feel safe: “Yes a scary thing happened, but we are keeping you safe.”
For more information on helping children of different ages cope with disaster and emergency situations, visit http://www.ready.gov/kids/parents/coping.
If you’ve followed along from the beginning, you’re only one check box away from getting your family disaster-ready and better prepared for emergencies! For the last step on the Get Ready. Get Safe. Family Plan Checklist, have your child complete the What Makes You Feel Safe Worksheet. This activity will help your little one communicate the ways she feels most comforted.
Once the What Makes You Feel Safe Worksheet is completed, you and your family have successfully finished the Primrose Schools and Save the Children Get Ready. Get Safe. Family Plan Checklist. We’re so proud that you are helping to raise a generation that will be ready for emergencies. Fill out your certificate of completion and share the news with your friends and family to continue raising awareness for emergency preparedness in your community!