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How to ensure mental health for your child after recent disasters

Published: Tuesday, June 04, 2019 @ 11:04 PM


In the aftermath of disaster, many children are at risk for mental health issues.

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“This is a scary time for our children,” said Gregory Ramey, Dayton Children’s Hospital executive director for pediatric mental health resources.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that children are at risk for mental illness after a disaster because they understand less about the situation, feel less able to control events and have less experience coping with difficult situations. 

“Kids, like adults, are concerned about their safety,” Ramey said. “They are concerned about what might happen to them. They are concerned about what might happen to their moms, dads, relatives, teachers and coaches.”

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Children younger than 8 are particularly at risk for mental health issues, according to the CDC.

“There is a fair amount of fearfulness, anxiety and a sense of lack of control that this can happen quickly,” Ramey said. “Be in tune with what your child is feeling and thinking. Listen and pay attention to what they are saying.”

Look for behavior signs such as being clingy and difficulty sleeping, he said. 

According to the CDC, parents can help their children cope by:

  • Giving them opportunities to talk about what they went through
  • Making them feel safe, calm, connected and giving them a sense of hope
  • Limiting exposure to media coverage of the disaster
  • Encouraging child to take action directly related to the disaster
  • Working with other adults who see your child in various situations to discuss how your child is coping 
The CDC suggests to seek a professional if your child continues to be very upset, the problems worsen instead of getting better, or your child’s reactions affect schoolwork or relationships.