Psychosocial Issues for Children and Adolescents in Disasters

Hurricane season has officially started, which means severe storms can form without warning—potentially causing major devastation in their paths.  In the days following a natural disaster such as a hurricane, adults and children alike find themselves thrown into chaos, confusion and heartbreak. Children are particularly vulnerable, which is why Psychosocial Issues for Children and Adolescents in Disasters advocates for increased sensitivity to the emotional vulnerability of children after such events. While presenting insightful strategies to mitigate the effects of disaster, this manual succeeds in fulfilling its purpose: expanding the understanding of the world from a child’s point of view, and the nature of their responses to natural disasters.

The publication is broken down into four categories: The World of Childhood and the Developing Child, Reactions of Children to Disasters, Helping the Child and Family and finally, Guidelines for Caregivers, Mental Health and Human Service Workers; all of which provide compelling insight in how to provide effective care.

For those of us who aren’t well-versed in child psychology, this book explores several child development theories to illustrate the importance of a successful transition into normal day-to-day life after trauma.

These fascinating theories range from the Piaget Theory – stating that the capacity to understand one’s environment increases with growth – to the Attachment Theory as developed by John Bowlby; a phenomenon revealing that children make strong affectional bonds to nurturing figures as a protective method from risk or harm. The Attachment Theory is most significant following a disastrous situation, as these events typically result in long-lasting fear and anxiety if left unaddressed.

Further still, what I have found to be most compelling is the fact that an adult’s reaction to a traumatic event plays a powerful role in a child’s recovery. Experts discovered that children’s symptoms of fear and stress dramatically decrease when adults empathize with them. This is a surefire way to establish a successful transition into well-adjusted adulthood – one where adults develop healthy coping mechanisms rather than developing behaviors that place a strain on their physical and mental health.

Let us not forget that enduring a disaster is no small feat, and the responsibility of helping children recover does not rest on parents alone. Assisting a child through the healing process – whether it be from a natural disaster or a death in the family – will have a lasting, positive effect. Use this source as your guide to being an effective support system to a child (or loved one) in need.

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About the author: Blogger contributor Aubree Driver is an intern in GPO’s Publication and Information Sales office.

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