Tips to help children cope with disasters

posted Dec 21, 2012, 1:30 AM by Doug Chandler
Here is some information from a Samaritan Counseling Center affiliate which summarizes suggestions to help children cope.  The information is adapted from handouts provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

 December 17, 2012                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Issue #14

The Samaritan Update

A Samaritan Institute Publication

 The National Institute of Mental Health Resources:

Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters

 As our nation tries to cope with the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, people may reach out to your Center for resources on how parents and/or community members can talk with children and adolescents about this recent act; something that even we as adults cannot truly understand.

 The National Institute of Mental Health has two separate booklets specifically for this purpose:

  • Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What PARENTS Can Do
  • Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What COMMUNITY MEMBERS Can Do (For Teachers, Clergy, and Other Adults in the Community)

 Tracy Williams, Executive Director of the Samaritan Counseling Center of Southeast Texas, shared these resources with a school teacher highlighting the following information contained within the booklets:

 In general adult helpers should:

Attend to children

• Listen to them

• Accept/ do not argue about their feelings

• Help them cope with the reality of their experiences


Reduce effects of other stressors like

• Frequent moving or changes in place of residence

• Long periods away from family and friends

• Pressures at school

• Transportation problems

• Fighting within the family

• Being hungry


Monitor healing

• It takes time

• Do not ignore severe reactions

• Attend to sudden changes in behaviors, language

use, or in emotional/feeling states


Remind children that adults

• Love them

• Support them

• Will be with them when possible.


Identify and address their own feelings – this will allow them to help others

Explain to children what happened, but also let children know:

• You love them

• The event was not their fault

• You will take care of them, but only if you can; be honest

• It’s okay for them to feel upset



• Allow children to cry

• Allow sadness

• Let children talk about feelings

• Let them write about feelings

• Let them draw pictures