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How To Help Children Cope With Disasters

  • Published: 2010-06-10 : Author: FEMA
  • Synopsis: Children can be especially vulnerable to stress following a disaster such as severe storms and flooding.

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Children can be especially vulnerable to stress following a disaster, such as the severe storms and record-setting flooding between April 30 and May 18.

Of the 61,375 households that have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to date, nearly a third include children younger than 18.

Preschoolers, children and teenagers who witnessed their home being damaged or destroyed, spent nights in a shelter, changed schools, lost a pet or had their normal routines interrupted are susceptible to anxiety. Children are also strongly influenced by how parents, teachers and other caregivers cope following a disaster.

To help children and caregivers deal with the after-effects of disaster, FEMA has awarded an initial grant of $380,265 to the state to implement a crisis counseling program called the Tennessee Recovery Project. The project has established a referral hotline: 1-800-809-9957.

The program includes crisis counseling outreach workers who may help disaster survivors understand their reactions, improve coping strategies and review their recovery options. The crisis counselors do not diagnose people or keep case files, but they can make referrals to anyone seeking mental health services for themselves or children.

Parents and caregivers should watch for signs of stress in children, such as changes in eating and sleeping habits. If a child has significant symptoms for six to eight weeks or longer, and if these symptoms are interrupting normal behaviors and routines, professional help should be sought.

Experts recommend that families get back into a regular routine of work, school and play activities as quickly as possible. Also, many counselors recommend encouraging children to express themselves through drawing, coloring and writing. FEMA's website provides some resources, such as coloring books, educational games and information for parents and teachers on how to help children cope with disaster. Go to www.fema.gov/kids. For more information on the topic how visit www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/cope_child.shtm.

Follow the recovery in Tennessee online at www.twitter.com/tema, www.twitter.com/femainfocus, www.facebook.com/TNDisasterInfo, www.youtube.com/fema and www.flickr.com/photos/t_e_m_a.

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA and TEMA do not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call800-462-7585.

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