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HELPING CHILDREN AFTER A DISASTER

A catastrophe such as an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, fire or flood is frightening to children and adults alike. It is important to acknowledge the frightening parts of the disaster when talking with a child about it. Falsely minimizing the danger will not end a child's concerns. Several factors affect a child's response to disaster.

The way children see and understand their parents' response is very important. Children are aware of their parents' worries most of the time but they are particularly sensitive during a crisis. Parents should admit their concerns to their children, and also stress their abilities to cope with the situation.

A child's reaction also depends on how much destruction he or she sees during and after the disaster. If a friend or family member has been killed or seriously injured, or if the child's school or home has been severely damaged, there is a greater chance that the child will experience difficulties.

A child's age affects how the child will respond to the disaster. For example, six-year-olds may show their concerns about a catastrophe by refusing to attend school, whereas adolescents may minimize their concerns but argue more with parents and show a decline in school performance. It is important to explain the event in words the child can understand.

Following a disaster, people may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is psychological damage that can result from experiencing, witnessing or participating in an overwhelmingly traumatic (frightening) event. Children with this disorder have repeated episodes in which they re-experience the traumatic event. Children often relive the trauma through repetitive play. In young children, distressing dreams of the traumatic event may change into nightmares of monsters, of rescuing others or of threats to self or others.

PTSD rarely appears during the trauma itself. Though its symptoms can occur soon after the event, the disorder often surfaces several months or even years later.

Parents should be alert to these changes:

  • Refusal to return to school and "clinging" behavior, shadowing the mother or father around the house;
  • Persistent fears related to the catastrophe (such as fears about being permanently separated from parents);Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting, persisting more than several days after the event;
  • Loss of concentration and irritability;
  • Behavior problems - for example, misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not typical for the child;
  • Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, dizziness) for which a physical cause cannot be found;
  • Withdrawal from family and friends, listlessness, decreased activity, preoccupation with the events of the disaster.

Professional advice or treatment for children affected by a disaster -- especially those who have witnessed destruction, injury or death -- can help prevent or minimize PTSD. Parents who are concerned about their children can ask their pediatrician or family doctor to refer them to a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional.

 

2017 Calendar

911 for Kids Events
911 Heroes Events sponsored by MOTOROLA Solutions

OCTOBER
08-14 National Fire Prevention Week
16-22 National Teen Driver Safety Week
Thu 19 Great California Shake Out
22-24 IACP (Philadephia)
23-31 Red Ribbon Week
All Month National Crime Prevention Month

NOVEMBER
Fri 03 CalNENA Fall Meeting (Palm Springs)
National Teens Don't Text and Drive Week

DECEMBER
Sun 01 Kathy Ireland Holiday Children's Celebration (Orange, CA)
All Month Safe Toys & Gifts Month
All Month Holiday Season Drunk Driving campaign

2018 Calendar

911 for Kids Events
911 Heroes Events sponsored by MOTOROLA Solutions

FEBRUARY
26-3/1 California Chapter NENA: Mission Critical (La Jolla)

MARCH
TBA Tim Brown Mentor Mini Camp for Fatherless Boys (CHP Academy, Sacramento)
TBA California Statewide Legislative 9-1-1 Heroes Awards (Sacramento)
TBA City of San Francisco 9-1-1 Heroes Awards (San Francisco)
13-17 National Flood Safety Awareness Week 19-25 National Poison PRevention Week

APRIL
9-15 National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week
24-26 Navigators Conference (Las Vegas)
All Month National 911 Education Month
All Month National Earthquake and Tsunami Awareness Month
All Month National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
TBA Los Angeles County 911 Heroes Awards
TBA Los Angeles City 911 Heroes Awards

MAY
Sun 20 Rock It for Kids: Concert Gala (Golf tournament kick-off) (Affliction Headquarters, Seal Beach, CA)
Mon 21 24th Annual Tim Brown 9-1-1 for Kids Celebrity Golf Classic (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)
7-13 National Hurricane Preparedness Week
19-25 National Safe Boating Week
All Month Motorcycle Safety Month All Month National Bike Month

JUNE
16-21 NENA National Conference (Nashville)
15-20 National Sherrifs Assn. Conference (Orlando)
04-08 National CPR & AED Awareness Week
Fri 08 Sun Safety Week
All Month National Safety Month
All Month National Fireworks Safety Month
All Month Home Safety Month

JULY
National Fireworks Safety Month

AUGUST
05-08 APCO International (Las Vegas)
Tue 07 National Night Out
8-11 IAFC (Sallas)
Sat 25 CalOES California Day of Preparedness (Sacramento)

SEPTEMBER
All Month National Preparedness Month
TBA Kathy Ireland Mentor Program for Single Teen Mothers (Orange, CA)

OCTOBER
IACP (Orlando)
07-13 National Fire Prevention Week
17-21 National Teen Driver Safety Week
Thu 20 Great California Shake Out
22-30 Red Ribbon Rally
All Month National Crime Prevention Month

NOVEMBER
TBA Riverside County 911 Heroes Awards
National Teens Don’t Text and Drive Week

DECEMBER
Sat 01 Kathy Ireland Holiday Children’s Celebration (Orange, CA)

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