Children in Disasters *

David A. Gershaw, Ph.D.

Currently, the people in the Midwest are picking themselves up after a disastrous flood, trying to get their lives in order and dealing with their own terror. With all of their efforts, often the needs of children are overlooked. Parents and teachers often underestimate how much children are stressed. What can we do to help our children to deal with these disasters?

With information obtained from the effects of Hurricane Andrew in August of 1992, psychologists have some recommendations to parents to help their children adapt to the effects of disasters.

Kids are often most helpful to other kids.

As with any crisis, there are some positive results. Positive outcomes of Hurricane Andrew included altruistic acts of both friends and strangers and an increased community spirit. (You probably have seen indications of this on news programs related to other disasters.) Other positive results include the increased sense of closeness within families who have to pull together to rebuild their lives. Both children and families can become stronger and more closely knit by successfully coping with any crisis.

* Adapted from Robin Michaelson, "When disasters hit, children need special help," APA Monitor, April, 1993, pages 30-31.

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