Ways to properly communicate with children after the earthquake

Like any earthquake survivor, young children were also deeply affected by the earthquake. While some children lost their lives in the earthquake, others lost their mother, father, brother or sister or other relatives. Child and adolescent psychiatrist Prof. Dr. Sevcan Karakoç made statements. Karakoç stated that children who experienced the earthquake were affected differently from adults and therefore the approach to children should be different from that of adults.

“The reactions of children will be more than a simple loss of parents”

prof. dr. Sevcan Karakoç: “Normally, the reactions after a loss are roughly divided into 5 groups. In the first phase there is what we call the shock phase, they freeze and there may be a group that does not respond at all. There is a period of denial that accompanies the shock. Then there is the continuity of the process in the form of anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The reaction we usually see in children during the acute phase, the first days and the first weeks will now be in the form of shock, denial and perhaps anger. Another point is that the losses of children are very great. Apart from the loss of parents, where they live, such as the loss of school. They suffered losses in many areas where they came into contact with the safe world. For this reason, the reactions of these children will be very diverse and more than just the loss of a parent.

“The loss a 5-year-old sees in life is different than the loss of a 25-year-old, 50-year-old.”

Prof. Dr. Karakoç said: “Children actually differ from adults in two ways. The first is cognitive. In other words, they differ from adults in understanding the world they have, the development and capacity of their brains. We call children 0-18 years old, but the responses to the law in infants, early childhood, primary school childhood and adolescence are very different compared to adults. Children before the age of 6, which we call the play period, can understand concrete concepts better. They may not fully understand abstract concepts such as dying. Young children don’t know that death is actually a universal, irreversible concept. In this respect they differ from adults. The knowledge that the deceased will not return, will not suffer, that he is no longer alive, must be passed on to children. Another difference with adults is their life experiences and their cognitive abilities. As a result, the losses of a 5-year-old child differ compared to the losses of a 25-year-old, 50-year-old. Young children, perhaps before a fish even died in their lives, faced the loss of the people they loved dearly. They have different characteristics from adults in terms of both cognitive and experience,” he said.

“Since children are not very good at perceiving abstract concepts, it is necessary to approach with concrete examples”

Prof. Dr. Karakoç said: “Since young children are not very good at perceiving abstract concepts, it is necessary to approach them with concrete examples. It could be leaves falling from a tree or an animal they lost before. Or the metaphor of the butterfly and the cocoon is generally used. We can use concepts such as ‘a butterfly that has come out of its cocoon has flown away, but its cocoon has been left behind’. Even if it is in our cultural fabric, some religious themes may not need to be mentioned. It would be appropriate not to say things like ‘he became an angel’, ‘he went to heaven’, ‘Allah took him away’, especially to young children. This time also small children can ask Allah to take them. Or on the contrary, he may rebel against God. Young children are not familiar with these concepts. Therefore, it is necessary to explain with more concrete examples. ‘He has traveled to the future’, ‘he has traveled a long way’, which leaves the children at an uncertain point and full of anticipation. They can ask questions like ‘when is he coming, where did he go’. Therefore, it should be more honest and conveyed in clear and understandable language.”

“The adaptation of these children is very difficult”

Making statements about the return of children who lost their families in the earthquake, Prof. Dr. Karakoç said: “The most fundamental aspect of returning to normal life after loss is returning to the old daily routine and order. But in a disaster like an earthquake, the children have no old home to return to. Or they may no longer have parents who could have been each other’s backup. They don’t have a school or a city of their own to return to. Therefore, adaptation of these children is very difficult. What can survivors do for these children? Restoring a trusting relationship can help him contact the world with confidence. He can reassure her that he is with her, that she is safe here now. And it is necessary to draw a clear and specific theme about how the child’s life will turn out from now on, for example, the child is placed in a place, how it will go there. It is necessary to be understanding with these children. Sometimes when we break the news of the loss to the children, the children may not be there and continue their games or continue what they are currently doing. We shouldn’t have expectations like “why didn’t he react” or “he will respond”. Because we expect the child to process this information and act accordingly. For example, if there is a concept of recurring death in games, if the child still has trouble sleeping after 5-6 weeks, if he behaves very anxious, if he is very angry with his parents, it means that he is having a hard time. time to go through the adjustment process. Those who care for children should pay attention to this. Then they should get professional help, because that is a point beyond them.”

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