Like every other issue in life, children learn ‘the facts’ from the non-verbal as well as the verbal messages from adults. More often than not, adult behaviour speaks louder, than the things we actually say to children. How you react to an emergency gives them clues about how to act. If you react with alarm, a child may become more scared. They see our fear as proof that the danger is real.
Children rely on consistent daily routines for their sense of security. Knowing what will happen, in what order, is crucial to their feelings of safety. During a crisis, daily routines will become disrupted, injuries may be sustained, belongings may be lost, pets may be in jeopardy. Prepare your child for the possibility.
Talk about your plans and address their concerns honestly. Avoid the tendency to respond to their fears with superficial answers. Allow children to talk about the issues as long as they have questions. Discussing the issues will help alleviate their anxiety, fear and confusion.
(will change according to age)
- What will happen?
- Where will we go?
- How will we get there?
- How will we go/stay together?
- Will it happen again?
- Will anybody get hurt or die?
- Who will look after me?
- What about my friend?
- What about grandma / grandpa . . .?
- Will we have food?
- What about my pets?
- What about my toys?
Children need to be a part of life-style changes and crisis survival plans. It helps them assimilate the information in a way that will develop their own self-reliance. In addition, assigning children a couple of age-appropriate crisis duties will aid in their sense of contribution and belonging. Like adults, children feel less vulnerable when they know what action to take.
During/After A Crisis:
Remember that your actions and your words will upset or reassure your child. Truthful, but confident responses, keeping the family together, lots of hugs and kisses and decisive action will have lasting impressions. Keep your child informed and involved. Return to normal family routines and household responsibilities as much and as quickly as possible. Always allow children to express their feelings.