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  • 4 Steps To Help Your Child Cope With Natural Disasters (Even If You're Scared Too)

    It’s natural for kids to become anxious over natural disasters, like the recent Taal eruption.
    by Kate Borbon .
4 Steps To Help Your Child Cope With Natural Disasters (Even If You're Scared Too)
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Earlier this week, Filipinos were rattled with the news of the eruption of the Taal Volcano and the ash cloud it spewed into the atmosphere, which spread as far as the National Capital Region (NCR). As if this weren’t bad enough, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) has warned that an “explosive eruption” could occur in the coming hours or days, CNN reports.

    In the face of such a disaster, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with fear and worry over our family’s wellbeing. But this doesn’t just happen to adults; kids struggle with dealing with disasters, too, and they need help to handle the stress that these occurrences can cause. As Lourdes Bernadette "Bernice" Lopez, CSP-PASP, a pediatric speech and language pathologist who organizes play activities for child victims of the Taal Volcano eruption, tells SmartParenting.com.ph, "High levels of early stress have been linked to impaired behavioral and emotional development since these kids’ bodies and minds are still growing."

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    How to help your child cope with natural disasters

    1. Take care of yourself first.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that children are likely to be affected by the emotional state of the adults around them. This means that even if you try to calm your child with reassuring words, if you are visibly upset and anxious, she won’t feel safe and secure. If you’re struggling to calm yourself, it can help to find someone you trust to help ease your concerns.

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    2. Explain what happened clearly.

    Kids have different ways of reacting to significant events. One natural way for kids to react is by asking lots of questions about what just happened. When this occurs, the AAP encourages parents to respond with concrete but age-appropriate explanations of the event and how it can affect them. For instance, you can tell her why it’s not safe to go outdoors due to ashfall.

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    3. Let her know that it’s okay to be upset.

    Another way children, especially older kids, may react to disasters is by feeling scared that it might worsen or happen again. They might also worry about the safety of their family, house, or pets. Respond by acknowledging your little one’s feelings and reminding her that it’s okay for her to feel that way and that you’re there to help her deal with those emotions.

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    4. Let her talk and learn to listen.

    Once your child is ready, give her the chance to talk about how she feels about the situation. She might also have other questions she needs your help addressing. Note that each child is different; some kids might be ready to talk about the disaster right away, while some might not be ready to do so until a while later.

    5. Reassure her of what’s being done to improve the situation.

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    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), informing your child of what is being done to remedy or prevent the effects of the disaster can help her feel more in control and able to manage her feelings. You can tell her about the people who are working to distribute relief goods to the victims of the eruption and the groups participating in disaster cleanup activities. You might even inspire her to find ways to help.

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