Disasters and other crisis events have the potential to cause short- and long-term effects on the psychological functioning, emotional adjustment, health and developmental trajectory of children. It is important that pediatricians, and all adults in a position to support children, are prepared to help children understand what has happened and to promote effective coping strategies. These efforts will help to reduce the impact of the disaster as well as any associated bereavement and secondary stressors on children.
Stress is intrinsic to many major life events that children and families face, including the experience of significant illness and its treatment. The information provided about how to help children cope after a disaster or crisis is relevant for many encounters that pediatricians will have with children, even outside the context of a disaster.
The first step in providing psychological support is to ensure that the basic needs of each disaster victim are met. For children, this means ensuring that each child has a safe physical environment (eg, direct supervision and shelter), food and drinking water.
- How Families Can Cope with Relocation Stress After a Disaster (HealthyChildren.org)
- Disaster Distress Helpline and Text Details (SAMHSA)
- Family Readiness Kit (AAP)
- Talking with Children About Disasters (HealthyChildren.org) - Español
- Helping Children Cope with Disaster (CDC)
- Mental Health Initiatives – Implementing Mental Health Priorities in Practice (AAP)
- Supporting Children and Family Survivors of Military Line-of-Duty Deaths (Coalition to Support Grieving Students)
- Talking to Kids about Tragedies (Such as Shootings and Terror Attacks) in the News (NCSCB)
American Academy of Pediatrics