Pago Pago, American Samoa - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises that young children may be fearful when they do not understand what is happening around them. The sudden and unexpected nature of terrorism and disaster can cause high anxiety and even panic for them.
Helping children deal with the side effects of disaster can be challenging when adults haven't had adequate time to deal with their own reactions. Faced with these conditions it's important to remember that children are very insightful. They quickly recognize the fear and anxiety that adults are experiencing. Parents and adults should realize this and deal with their own reactions first, before confronting the kids.
Fear and confusion is often the outcome when youngsters are involved in the unexpected. Children become fearful when they do not understand what is happening. They want to feel secure knowing someone is taking care of them and their need for emotional support.
There are many things that can be done to comfort a child in disaster situations:
- The simple act of holding a child is a comfort to them and gives them a sense of security.
- When kids find decisions difficult to make, make decisions for them.
- In a calm, reassuring way adults can share their own feelings of fear and anxiety with their children and then get the children to talk about the disaster.
- Help children release tension. Make things that children can use to pretend they are disaster workers, cops, and firemen.
- If the children start to behave aggressively let them see alternatives to violence as a means of problem solving.
- It is natural for children to display changes in behavior as they work through their anxiety and fear.
Taking extra time with your children will ease their way.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.