Wednesday 25 September 2013

Children Need Support in the Wake of Natural Disasters

Our two sponsored children

When a natural disaster hits a community it is devastating for everyone involved, but especially for the children. When a wildfire, earthquake, storm or violent flood hits a community, children are very vulnerable and can be significantly impacted. Their families might need to relocate, they may have lost vital loved ones and the adults that they usually rely on to support them will be also struggling themselves.

 How can we support children during these difficult times? During times of tragedy, children need stability and comfort and they also need older role models who can guide them on how to manage the emotions that they are feeling. When they have the support of caring adults, children will eventually be able to return to school and their normal routines. They will be able to understand their reactions to the trauma and move on from the experience. 

Strong Reactions are Normal 
Following a highly traumatic event such as a natural disaster, it is completely normal for teenagers and children (as well as adults) to have strong reactions and changes in behaviour. Feelings of confusion, insomnia, depression, anger, social withdrawal, panic and fear are common and very natural. It is important that these reactions are not ignored, but rather treated in the appropriate way so that they can be dealt with.

After a traumatic event, a child will likely be worried that their surroundings are no longer safe or that danger could strike at any minute. They might have reoccurring nightmares about the trauma or fears that they or their family are in danger. Children in this situation are often tense, nervous, on-edge and might have difficulty paying attention or concentrating. They will become overly dependent on others and clingy, or sometimes even distressed and fearful if they are separated from loved ones. These are all natural responses to the trauma that the child has witnessed and in order to move on from this distressed psychological state, we need to give children the support they need.

How Can We Help Children in This Situation? 
What does a child need to recover from this type of emotional trauma? First of all, they need adults in their life who are calm and reassuring and will provide them with support. They need their feelings to be listened to and discussed, rather than hidden.

Also, a great way to support children in this situation is to offer them positive coping and problem solving skills. This will help them to develop their own ways of dealing with the situation, so that they can manage their anxiety. It can also be very helpful for children dealing with trauma to have strong emotional support from their peers and friendship groups. Time spent with friends is important and should be encouraged.

These are just a few of the important ways that we can help children recover from natural disasters. To find out more about Plan UK and how the charity helps children in need, visit their child sponsorship page here

This is a guest post which I was happy to accept without charge as my family sponsor two children, one in Haiti and one in India, so I know first-hand the value that child sponsorship has.
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