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Helping Children Cope

Disasters can leave children and teens feeling frightened, confused and insecure. Their responses can be quite varied. It's important to not only recognize these reactions, but also help children cope with their emotions.

A woman is speaking with her two children at a table where Ready materials are spread out and being reviewed

Encourage dialogue and answer questions

Listen to your kids. Ask them about their feelings and validate their concerns. When they ask questions, give just the amount of information you feel your child needs.

A girl laying on the floor looking at her tablet.

Limit media exposure

Intense media coverage of disasters can frighten young children and disturb teenagers as well. If your children watch TV or use the internet, try to be available to talk with them and answer questions.

A man in a striped shirt is playing with two children and creating a tower using wooden blocks

Make time for them and find support

Help kids understand that they are safe and secure by talking, playing, and doing other family activities with them. Build support networks with friends, family, and community organizations to help you cope, which can also help your children cope.

Three children playing soccer - one  in a black jersey and is about to kick the ball from the two on the opposing team

Keep to a routine

Help your children feel as if they still have a sense of structure, which can make them feel more relaxed. When schools and childcare open again, help children return to normal activities like going to class, sports, and play groups.

A mother is comforting her young daughter by giving her a hug

Risk Factors

For many kids, reactions to disasters are short-term. But some children can be at risk for more long-term psychological distress. Three risk factors for this longer-lasting response are:

  • Direct exposure to the disaster such as being evacuated, observing injuries of others, or experiencing injury.
  • Loss/grief relating to the death or serious injury of family or friends.
  • Ongoing stress from secondary effects, such as temporary housing, loss of social networks, loss of personal property, or parent's unemployment.

Last Updated: 02/18/2021