Disaster & Trauma Response
Children’s Disaster Services is an organization that provides a wide range of services both for people directly affected by disasters and those who want to help. They’ve produced this pamphlet to help you know how to help your child cope with trauma. It’s also available in Spanish!
Feel free to download Here for Each Other. This great resource for parents comes from Sesame Street and provides parents with ways to talk with their children about emergencies.
Disaster: A Good Answers to Tough Questions Book by Joy Berry
Tangible Ways to Help
Want to help tangibly when a disaster strikes? To help in a way that children can also participate, please download this packet of bookmarks. The bookmarks are made to be printed, colored, and distributed by the children in your congregations. Each bookmark includes instructions for creating a Hygiene, Baby or School Kit for Church World Services. Please note that their kit instructions are specific and they do ask that we abide by these requests.
Want to help financially? Please visit our Kids to Kids Missions site, and specifically our “Ready, Set, Go” project, for information about giving through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) or the United Church of Christ.
If it is your church or area that has been affected by disaster please contact the following resources for immediate and urgent needs:
Helping Children Understand Natural Disasters
The following information comes directly from Sesame Workshop:
“In light of recent world events and events that continue to affect our children here at home, the experts at Sesame Workshop, Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Vice President of Research and Education and Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Vice President for Outreach and Educational Practices, created tips and information on how parents and caregivers can help their children understand and cope with these natural disasters. Children manifest concerns or questions in their own ways, and these age-appropriate materials will assist parents and caregivers as they continue to support and guide their children.
Encourage your child to ask questions. His questions will help you understand what he already knows about the situation and allow you to give child-friendly answers to those specific questions. If a question catches you off guard, take a moment to think about how you want to respond before answering. It’s also okay to say, “I don’t know.” Make it clear that you’re open to talking about whatever he brings up.
Give her the facts. Use simple words to explain what has happened. In the case of an earthquake, you can explain that “When there’s an earthquake, the ground shakes. It shakes because rocks deep under the ground are moving.” Explain that it can be scary for everyone, but that adults do their best to keep children safe.
Respect her concerns. If she tells you that she’s afraid of something, validate her fears. Let her know it’s okay to be afraid or concerned.
Offer comfort. Children often take their cues from you; when you react, they react. Try to model a sense of calm. Answer even repeated questions honestly and simply. Reassure children that they are safe with you, and that you love them and will take care of them.
Monitor media use. Avoid having your child watch or see repeated images of troubling events, such as a natural disaster and its damage. Young children might think that the event is happening over and over.
Your child may express feelings through actions rather than words. Watch for ongoing changes in behavior in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Children may exhibit clinginess, over activity, not wanting to participate in routines like going to school, etc.
Empower your child by thinking about ways you can help. Put together a lemonade stand or a bake sale in your community or school to donate the proceeds to organizations providing aid to the affected areas. Helping others will not only help your child learn about empathy, it also shows that there are people that will be there to help during tough times.
What to say when your child says, “I’m scared!”
Also from the Sesame Workshop:
2 years old or younger: Let your child know it’s okay to feel scared. Even more than words, young children need tangible reassurance. Try providing your child with a comfort item to hold on to, and keep her close at hand. Lots of hugs help, too!
3 TO 5: “It’s OK to feel scared. Can you tell Mommy why you’re scared? Mommy loves you, and I will be here to keep you safe.”
6 TO 11: Start by asking your child what she already knows about what has happened and how she’s feeling, so you know how to address her particular concerns. Reassure her that it’s okay to be scared, but that she is safe and will be cared for.”
This page was last updated by JK 4/15