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Disaster help for parents and children 

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Issues related to disaster and trauma intervention are addressed in the following lists.  This summary is a starting point for helping children after a disaster.  The Child Advocate is devoted to children and the parents and professionals that work with them and advocate for them.  If you have questions about the information presented here, please consult a physician, mental health professional, the resources listed or other professional in your area.  References on the items listed here are available on request.

[New!]  Booklet for parents and professionals on Helping Children Cope After A Disaster from the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine. 

[New!]  Additional Information on helping parents and children

[New!]  Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide


Listen to the Children Interview

These are questions to ask children that are directly or indirectly involved in trauma to determine their awareness, knowledge, needs and misconceptions.  These questions are helpful whether the child was closely or distantly involved in the trauma.


Dealing with Children’s Reactions

What can help a child to deal with injury, loss and distress around trauma?


Trauma Intervention

At the time of the trauma what can help immediately?
  • Protect children from excitement such as onlookers.
  • Reunite children with parents immediately for comfort.
  • Coordinate with other caregivers.
  • Support parents in dealing with events.


Pain and Fear Management

What type of interventions are helpful to calm a child when a therapist or professional is involved?
  • Distraction
  • Guided imagery
  • Suggestion
  • Thought stopping
  • Self-instruction
  • Relaxation

Trauma Factors from the Hurricane Hugo Disaster

Factors to use in assessing potential risk of psychological problems:

  • Prior anxiety level
  • Damage to the child’s home
  • Location of the child during the trauma
  • Perceived severity of the trauma
  • Parental job loss
  • Age, sex and race of the child


Long Term Negative Reactions

Support and treatment can reduce these consequences:

  • Repeated memories
  • Repetitive behavioral reenactments
  • Trauma specific fears
  • Changed attitudes about people, life and the future.

Summary of Trauma Response and Intervention

  • Listen to the child
  • Reassure repeatedly
  • Treat all fears as genuine
  • Keep all promises
  • Reunite with parent
  • Encourage talking
  • Give choices
  • Use humor cautiously


Additional Resources:


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Revised: September 20, 2014 .