Every parent hopes that their child never has to go through a disaster or emergency. But, it’s likely that at some point your child will face some kind of distressing event. Helping your child or teen develop healthy emotional coping skills ahead of time can help them react and recover better after experiencing a disaster or emergency.
A distressing event is anything that makes a child or teen feel physically or emotionally overwhelmed.
A child or teen can feel insecure, scared, or confused after:
It can be hard for a child to cope if they don’t understand what’s happened or why it’s affecting their routine. The more scared or helpless a child feels, the more likely they are to feel troubled.
As a parent or caregiver, you can lower the impact of a disaster or emergency by giving your child support and guidance that’s right for their age. Helping a child develop healthy and effective ways to cope with daily challenges will help a child control how they react if an emergency happens.
Communicate and Connect with Others
Help your child learn words to describe and talk about their feelings. Let them know that it’s okay and healthy to share worries with a trusted adult. Model and encourage positive communication skills for your teen. This can help them build healthy supportive groups of friends and family to safely share feelings with.
Optimism and a Positive Attitude Help
Plan regular family meals and have each person share at least 1 positive thing that happened that day. Teach your child how to look for the positives in a situation, especially times when the only positive is a chance to learn from the experience. Let your child have successes (e.g., doing age-appropriate tasks around the house and give praise for their effort).
Participate in Family and Community Events to Build Support Networks
Get your child to help you make an emergency kit for your house. Let your child help make a family emergency plan. Find events that you can do or volunteer at as a family.
Ask your child what makes them feel stressed. Teach your child to know what they can and can’t change or control. Help your child learn skills to problem solve and set realistic goals. Create easy chances for your child to practice problem-solving and setting goals every day. Teach your child how to break down big problems into small, more manageable steps to help cope with stressful times. Remember, your child is watching how you cope and problem-solve, so practice what you teach.
Nurture and Support your Child or Teen’s Healthy Emotional Development
Let children express themselves. Listen to your child’s feelings without judging. Have age-appropriate talks with your child. Let your child know that you care and want to understand how they react to stress. It’s very important during an emergency to:
Go for Help
Talk to your child about who they should ask for help in times of stress. Teach your child how to:
All children and teens respond differently to a disaster or emergency. When you help your child or teen learn to cope with feelings like anger, fear, guilt, and feeling helpless, you help build and strengthen your family’s ability to cope if a disaster or emergency happens.
Current as of: October 19, 2021
Author: Mental Health Promotion & Illness Prevention, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.