Earthquake can cause shaking of the senses of “safety” and “normality-normality-” in children, emotional and physical exhaustion, and in some children feelings such as guilt over the injury or death of other friends. It is very important in this process that parents make them feel that they are with them by being calm and hugging their children without shying away from talking about the earthquake.
Children respond differently based on their age and developmental level.
Unlike other natural events such as hurricanes, hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes happen without any warning. Causes extensive destruction in minutes. This leads to a decrease in the psychological adaptation that facilitates coping with disaster victims. Survivors are forced to face realities such as aftershocks, explosions, smoke and soot that are reminders of destruction. It is very difficult to deal with this situation, which causes confusion and confusion, especially for children. Devastated and abandoned places, everywhere mud and cold drive people to despair. After natural disasters, people feel powerless and show negative emotional reactions as events happen beyond their control. Children, on the other hand, show different reactions based on their age and developmental level. There are also common feelings that are often observed in children after natural disasters. Humans do not have the ability to completely prevent natural events. For this reason, the feeling that everything is getting out of hand is very evident in children. Disasters disrupt the natural order. The child may lose confidence thinking, “If a disaster like this happens, all sorts of bad things could happen to me.” He feels he is not safe.
Some common symptoms in children after natural disasters include:
• Symptoms such as infantile behavior, thumb sucking, bedwetting, clinging to parents, mischief, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, fear of the dark and estrangement from friends and normal daily routine can be observed in preschool children.
• Elementary school children may experience anger, aggression, nightmares, school refusal, distraction, withdrawal from friends and activities, and academic and behavioral decline.
• Symptoms such as feeding and sleeping disorders, complex emotions, conflicts, irritability, physical complaints (headaches and stomachaches, etc.), distraction, school dropout, crime, alcohol, cigarette and drug use can be observed in adolescents.
• Some children may think the disaster is the result of their past misbehavior and may feel guilty. There are those who avoid talking about the events that happened, and there are also those who want to talk about them all the time. Some children do not display any of these behaviors, their anxiety goes unnoticed from the outside. In some children, the behaviors associated with these problems may occur weeks or months later.
How can parents help their children affected by natural disasters?
After the sudden sense of serious threat, children take the example of adults who are important in their lives to cope with the consequences of events. Parents, teachers, and other adults can help children and youth after a natural disaster by remaining calm and convincing that nothing bad will happen to them.
Parents should pay particular attention to the following points for the proper management of their children affected by the earthquake:
• Don’t avoid talking about events. If you can’t think of words after what happened, it’s always good to hug him and say, “This is really hard for all of us.” Be calm and let him know that as a parent you will always be there for him. Be honest with your child about what happened. Don’t deny the seriousness of the situation. Saying “Don’t worry, everything is fine” does not lessen the child’s worry. The child knows that this will not be the case for the foreseeable future. Be warm and affectionate to him.
• Let children express their feelings and thoughts. Some children want to tell stories over and over again, this is part of the healing process. Listen to him carefully. Young children, on the other hand, can express their feelings by playing with toys such as fire engines and ambulances.
• Try to restore the house order for the events or create a new order as soon as possible. Make sure family members are together. Make sure you keep the promises you make to your child to get them to trust adults again.
• Do not let your children watch news and programs about disasters that are often covered in the media. Mention other program suggestions for them to watch.
• Support should be given to children who have lost their family and friends in the incidents. Adults think they will protect children by keeping them away from conversations and ceremonies about death. This situation causes fear and confusion in the child. Use simple language when describing death. Provide brief, accurate information appropriate to the child’s age. Tell him he can attend the ceremony if he wants to, and provide information about what he will encounter there.
• Every crisis is an opportunity. Remind your child that these natural disasters bring all people in our society and around the world together.
• Get professional support. You can get help from psychologists who work in schools, pedagogues, psychologists and psychiatrists who work in hospitals and other institutions.
How can teachers help students affected by natural disasters?
• It is usually appropriate to return to the usual daily schedule as soon as possible. However, if the students are restless, the events can be discussed in groups at the beginning of the school day. Teachers can go beyond the daily curriculum and ask the following questions: “Where were you when it happened? Do you want to tell what happened, what you saw, what you heard? When was the hardest, worst moment? What were your feelings? What are you feeling now? What were you most afraid of?” like it…
• Activities such as painting, writing a story and creating a memory corner with different materials such as paper, paint, clay and dough allow students to express their feelings.
• Assign less homework by keeping lessons shorter. Talk to your students about how natural disasters happen.
• Children can participate in some concrete activities to regain a sense of control over their lives; for example, donating for the injured, sending cards or letters to their relatives, planting trees to commemorate the dead.
• The most appropriate person to announce the death news at school is the principal. When announcing the death, use the central reporting system where all students can hear this information at the same time. Then you go through the lessons one by one. Go especially to the most affected. Do not rush to remove the desk or belongings of the deceased child. Enlist the help of the child’s friends. Encourage the students to visit the family of the deceased child or educator and send letters home. Arrangements should be made for funeral ceremonies and, as a general principle, teachers and students should attend the funeral.
• Remind your students often that what they are going through is difficult but temporary and that everything will be fine.