During times of disasters children's fears can stem from their imaginations, and adults should take their feelings seriously. Words, actions, and expressions of love can provide reassurance to a child who feels afraid. When talking to your child, be sure to present a realistic picture that is honest, calming, and understandable.
Be aware that after a disaster, children most fear that:
- They will be separated from family, and they will be left alone
- The event will happen again
- Someone will be injured or killed
- Their house will be destroyed
Assemble a kit for children to include:
- A few favorite books, crayons and paper
- Puzzles, a board game, deck of cards
- Two favorite small toys, such as a doll or action figure, a stuffed animal
- Favorite blanket, pillow
- Pictures of family and pets
- Other special items that will comfort children
Children's Immunizations Should Be Up-to Date
An up to date vaccination schedule protects them from vaccine-preventable diseases, including an unexpected outbreak during a disaster.
- Keep a copy of your children's complete immunization histories in your disaster kit attached to the family emergency information.
- All family members should also record the date of their last tetanus-diphtheria shot in this record as well.
Communicating with Children About Natural Disasters
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued the following recommendations for parents providing them with guidance on how to talk to children before, during or after a disaster. Here are some of them:
- It is important to communicate to children that the family circle is strong
- Children need to be assured by their parents that the family is safe
- Adolescents, in particular, can be hard hit by this type of disaster. Parents should watch for signs such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, lack of pleasure in activities previously enjoyed and illicit substance abuse
- Avoid queries and unnecessary arguments. These only serve to add stress to the situation
- Remain calmed it will help in decision making, and it shows children you are in control giving them a sense of reassurance
- Avoid overexposing children to the media and to repeatedly viewing footage of destruction and /or traumatic events. Provide supervision while children are watching disaster events on television and help them understand what they are viewing.
- Encourage discussion so that you can learn about their fears.
Florida Emergency Information Line: 1-800-342-3557
Public Information Emergency Support Function: 850-921-0384