Recommendations for ‘psychological support’ for children affected by earthquakes
Emphasizing that the physical safety of earthquake victims should come first, Prof. Dr. Bilge Uzun stressed that if there is a loss of parents in the earthquake, the news should be conveyed to the child as soon as possible. Prof. Dr. Bilge Uzun said: “It is important to listen to children and acknowledge their feelings after a disaster. Children can have many questions and concerns after an earthquake. “It’s important to encourage them to talk about their feelings and concerns and to listen to them without judgment.”
“THE TRUST THAT DENIES THE CURRENT STATUS SHOULD BE AVOIDED”
Stating that the first thing to do is to ensure the physical safety of children, which is their most basic need, Prof. Dr. Bilge Uzun added on the subject:
“It is important to keep the child in a safe place away from danger in areas where earthquake risk persists. After a disaster, it is necessary to listen to children and acknowledge their feelings. Children can have many questions and concerns after an earthquake. It is important to encourage them to talk about their feelings and concerns and to listen to them without judgment. When communicating with children, statements that deny the current situation, such as “Nothing, nothing, don’t be afraid, calm down,” should be avoided. What happened should be explained simply to the child, with short and concrete statements such as ‘There was an earthquake, our house was damaged, we are safe now’.
“SPECIALISTS WORKING ON TRAUMA SHOULD FILL IN”
Referring to the fact that children decide what is happening around them and what to do by looking at the parent or adult around them, Uzun said, “Parents or adults who are with the child should control their own fears. Children may not be able to express their feelings verbally. It is important to encourage them to express the situation and their feelings through art, music or other creative activities so that they can express their feelings. “If she is having trouble sleeping, eating, or is particularly anxious or withdrawn, it would be prudent to seek professional help from a mental health professional who specializes in trauma.”
“WHEN THE CHILDREN GET APPROPRIATE SUPPORT THEY CONTINUE STRESS EVENTS”
Claiming that children are naturally both vulnerable and resilient and that they can overcome stressful events if given the right support. Dr. Bilge Uzun emphasized the importance of parents’ emotional management skills in increasing their ability to be flexible and resilient in the face of negative life experiences. He then explained how to explain the earthquake to the children:
“It is necessary to consider the developmental level of children directly or indirectly exposed to earthquakes while raising awareness about earthquakes. It is important for children under the age of ten not to go into too much detail when describing the earthquake, to use concrete expressions they can understand, and to use clear and simple language. “There was a big earthquake. Our house has been damaged by the intensity of this earthquake. We are all still in shock. You are also shocked, but we will always be by your side’ similar expressions can be used.
“Disasters can cause trauma that is trapped in the subconscious”
Uzun said disasters can create traumas that are trapped in the subconscious, even though they have been experienced before and are not remembered. Negative thoughts can start occupying the mind. There may be thoughts of possible earthquakes, the need to share these thoughts intensely, and the need to follow the news about the earthquake. Therefore, children exposed to trauma may experience situations such as anxiety, freezing, restlessness, lack of attention, confusion, not knowing what to do, feeling disconnected from the environment and feeling insecure. Disasters also carry the risk of triggering traumas that have been experienced before and lingered in the subconscious, even if they are not remembered. A specialist should be consulted if, despite the time that has passed since the earthquake, children have problems concentrating, organising, letting themselves go with the daily flow or unable to concentrate on work and memory.
“IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAY THAT THEY CAN STILL ACHIEVE GOALS AND DREAMS”
Making important warnings about the psychological health of children physically damaged by the earthquake, Prof Dr Bilge Uzun said: “Losing a limb in an earthquake is a traumatic and life-changing experience for children. It is necessary to ensure that the child’s physical needs are met and that he or she has access to necessary medical care. Intense emotions such as sadness, anger, disappointment, and sadness are common in dismembered children. That’s why it’s important to help them focus on their strengths and abilities and let them know that they can still achieve their goals and dreams. It is important to encourage children to express their feelings and situations through art, music or other creative activities so that they can express their feelings.”