Prepare Your Mind For The Coming Crisis – Part 10: How To Explain Disasters And Crises To Children – (1)
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Today we’ll talk about a very difficult topic: how to explain disasters and crises to children (whether you’re a parent or a grandparent), to minimize post-traumatic stress and help them deal with the new situation.
Kids are especially sensitive to the things going on around them, because they cannot explain phenomenons by themselves. They don’t have the knowledge or the emotional maturity to understand why things are suddenly different from the way they used to be.
That’s why we have to constantly observe them, notice changes in their behaviour or mood, answer their questions or, if they’re abnormally quiet, ask them questions to uncover their real feelings.
First thing you need to know is how children normally react to a disaster or crisis according to their age.
On the FEMA site (home.fema.gov) I discover some interesting stuff about on this subject and I’d like to share it with you:
“Birth through 2 years. When children are pre-verbal and experience a trauma, they do not have the words to describe the event or their feelings. However, they can retain memories of particular sights, sounds, or smells. Infants may react to trauma by being irritable, crying more than usual, or wanting to be held and cuddled.
The biggest influence on children of this age is how their parents cope. As children get older, their play may involve acting out elements of the traumatic event that occurred several years in the past and was seemingly forgotten.
Preschool – 3 through 6 years. Preschool children often feel helpless and powerless in the face of an overwhelming event. Because of their age and small size, they lack the ability to protect themselves or others. As a result, they feel intense fear and insecurity about being separated from caregivers.
Preschoolers cannot grasp the concept of permanent loss. They can see consequences as being reversible or permanent. In the weeks following a traumatic event, preschoolers’ play activities may reenact the incident or the disaster over and over again.
School age – 7 through 10 years. The school-age child has the ability to understand the permanence of loss. Some children become intensely preoccupied with the details of a traumatic event and want to talk about it continually. This preoccupation can interfere with the child’s concentration at school and academic performance may decline.
At school, children may hear inaccurate information from peers. They may display a wide range of reactions—sadness, generalized fear, or specific fears of the disaster happening again, guilt over action or inaction during the disaster, anger that the event was not prevented, or fantasies of playing rescuer.
Pre-adolescence to adolescence – 11 through 18 years. As children grow older, they develop a more sophisticated understanding of the disaster event. Their responses are more similar to adults. Teenagers may become involved in dangerous, risk-taking behaviors, such as reckless driving, or alcohol or drug use. Others can become fearful of leaving home and avoid previous levels of activities.
Much of adolescence is focused on moving out into the world. After a trauma, the view of the world can seem more dangerous and unsafe. A teenager may feel overwhelmed by intense emotions and yet feel unable to discuss them with others.”
Basically, you need to adapt your explanations to your children’s or grandchildren’s age. And when you decide to talk to them, follow these basic rules:
- Choose a time when they’re not busy or distracted by something else. Also, you need to have enough time to answer all their questions. And that could take hours.
- Tell them it’s going to be a serious talk, so they understand this is not a joke and they should take it seriously.
- Be patient. Don’t rush into a speech, leaving them no room to ask questions.
- Pay attention to their reaction (if they get scared, upset, confused, etc.). Adapt your words to their feelings.
- Ask them questions like “How are you feeling?”, “Is it clear so far?”, “Is there something you’d like to ask?”, “What do you think will happen” and lots of “Why?”s.
These are ground rules, but there are a lot more things you need to take into consideration when it comes to discussing such a difficult matter with your children or grandchildren. We’ll cover those next time, because there’s a lot to talk about. Until then, stay safe, as always.
For more articles on survival topics, check out: www.myfamilysurvivalplan.com
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