Although the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has stabilized, it is not over. Meanwhile, earthquake aftershocks are expected to continue for months. Here are several recommendations for parents to help their children cope:
- Monitor children’s television and Internet access – bodies and other graphic imagery may increase anxiety.
- Make sure children understand it’s OK to talk about fears and that it may take time to overcome them. Help them understand that there are no bad emotions and that a wide range of reactions is normal.
- Maintain family routines and rituals.
- Let children help make decisions on choices, like what book to read or what to eat.
- Take time out to relax, both for you and your child.
- Encourage your child to ask questions and be honest with them in simple language they can understand.
- Watch for changes in your child’s behavior. They may vary based on age, but changes in sleep patterns, nightmares and difficulty concentrating can all be symptoms of anxiety related to a disaster.
- Reassure children that you and others will take care of them.Sources: The Center for Traumatic Stress; Jessica Sparling, Sullivans School psychologist; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Some helpful links on what parents should do to help their children cope:
- National Associated of School Psychologists "Global Diasters: Helping Children Cope"
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry "Talking to Children about Earthquakes & Other Natural Disasters"
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry "Disaster Trauma Resource Center"
- Scholastic.com "Talking to Your Kids About Natural Disasters, War, and Violence"
- American Psychiatric Association "Talking to Children about Disasters"
- NYU Child Study Center "Talking to Kids About World Natural Disasters"