Good information from Seneca Health Services on kids dealing with trauma:
Important information regarding the effects of natural disasters on children (from the desk of Christine Barnett, MSW, Children’s Therapist)
Natural disasters can be traumatic for everyone, especially for children—those whose brains are still developing, who may not completely understand what is going on.
Natural disasters can do a number of things—instill fear, create a sense of chaos and even bring communities closer together.
Reactions to traumatic events can vary from person to person. Some may experience little to no traumatic symptoms while others may have a hard time coming to terms and accepting what has occurred.
Be aware of signs and symptoms a child who has experienced a natural disaster may display:
• Fear, worry or anxiousness
• Sadness or depression
• Anger or aggression, acting out behaviors
• Fear of another natural disaster
• “Clingy” behaviors
• Avoidant behaviors
• Low self-esteem or worry for the future
• Physical symptoms—stomachache, headache, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, nightmares
Keep in mind that reactions to traumatic events are normal. Most signs and symptoms will subside over time, especially when a sense of normalcy is reestablished. Age and developmental stage determines how an infant, toddler, child or adolescent may respond to a traumatic event. Everyone is different and will react to natural disasters or traumatic events in their own way.
Some children may experience fear in form of triggers such as intense rain, thunder, storm watches and warnings or emergency sirens. Chronic fears can subside over time but in some cases do not. If any of the above symptoms or chronic fears start to hinder a child’s daily functioning it is important to seek professional help.
It is important to talk to children. Let them know that what they are feeling or experiencing is normal. They may have questions, comments and concerns. Be open and honest. Explain to them what happened, why it may have happened and what the next course of action is. Reassure them appropriately and do not instill false hope.
Allow children to be involved and take action if they wish. Allow them to take part in recovery efforts. Volunteering to gather or hand out supplies can help a child establish a feeling of worth or optimism after a disaster. If your home or business was destroyed, allow the child to help make small decisions about the rebuild. This can instill hope and optimism and bring the child satisfaction.
Most importantly, educate. Let them know that natural disasters are not preventable but that guidelines can be put into place for future disasters. Create a safety plan that includes precautions and safety procedures to be prepared in case another natural disaster occurs in the future.
For more information about natural disasters and/or the signs and symptoms of trauma or to receive crisis support, please contact Seneca Health Services
Greenbrier area 304.497.0500
Nicholas area 304.872.2659
Pocahontas area 304.799.6865
Webster area 304.847.5425
Seneca Health Services has been providing behavioral healthcare for our communities for over 40 years. Services are available regardless of ability to pay. Many can receive treatment at no cost.