Many times when disasters strike, such as the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the oil spill resulting from the explosion, people tend to forget that it affects children differently than adults. Many times people tend to treat children as miniature adults but they are not, they are children. Therefore, when disaster strikes, a child needs to be taken into special consideration.
The most important thing with dealing with a toddler or preschooler in times of trauma is to stick to your daily routine. When a natural disaster or environmental disaster strikes, it brings instability into a child’s world; therefore, sticking to the child’s normal routine as best as possible is important. For example, if a person and his or her child went for a walk every day, weather permitting, keep those walks going or if a parent had special family time with his or her child keep that going. Additionally, try to give the child extra attention and caring.
When a child goes through a traumatic experience, especially when it is one that they cannot fully understand why or what caused the disaster to happen, he or she needs extra reassurance and attention. Hug the child or put them in your lap and reassure them that everything is alright because children need that comfort during unsure times. Even if that extra reassurance means letting the child sleep with the parent or parents and avoiding separations from the child. A child looks to their parent or parents for security during unsure times and it is an important part of the recovery process to give it to him or her. Additionally, encourage the child to express his or her feelings.
Children, especially toddlers, are not very good at expressing emotions or feeling by words; therefore, try to encourage the child to express his or her feelings and emotions about the situation through other means. A parent can try to get his or her child to express his or her feeling through playing, drawing a picture, or by stories. These ways are a good way for children to get out their emotions or feelings. Furthermore, a parent needs to control how much of the disaster the child sees on television or hears on the radio.
Sometimes when people think that children are not paying attention, they are. The images shown on the television of a disaster or stories heard on the radio can affect a child more than most parents realize. Children are like a sponge and soak up everything around them in their environment, both negative and positive. Therefore, hearing about or seeing the disaster through the media could affect a child even more, so limit what a child hears or sees about a disaster. Children need to be protected from some events.
Children are precious and their emotional and mental development is very important, so helping them deal with a trauma or disaster is an important responsibility of a parent or caregiver. If a child is given reassurance and the stability he or she needs, he or she will heal in time.