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During a disaster or emergency, a child’s environment and routine may change. Your child may feel and act differently because they might not understand what has happened. Your child or teen can lose trust and may be afraid that the event will happen again. Changes in behaviour can be part of how a child or teen copes.
After a disaster or emergency, try to get back to normal routines as much as possible. Reassure your child that they are safe, that you will protect them from danger, and that you will help if they are scared. This will help your child stay calm.
Teens may need more attention after a disaster. Your teen needs to feel that their fears are appropriate and are the same fears that other people have.
Like an adult, your child or teen can also have a delayed reaction to what they’ve been through.
Everyone responds differently after a disaster or emergency. And children and teens don’t react the same way as adults. All of the signs of stress listed below are common after a disaster or emergency. Usually these reactions ease over time. However, media reports, anniversaries, or experiencing a similar disaster or emergency may trigger stress from the past. If stress is affecting your child or teen’s home and school life, you may need to ask for support from a trusted friend or family member or a healthcare provider.
Children under 5 years old may:
Children 6 to 12 years old may:
Teens (12 to 18 years) may:
After a disaster or emergency, help your child or teen cope by reducing tension, anxiety, and feelings of guilt. Give your child or teen some responsibilities, like caring for pets or helping someone. A meaningful task gives your child or teen something else to focus on.
Encourage good nutrition and sleep habits. This can decrease worry and help them to recover.
If this is an emergency, call 911 right away.
Call Health Link at 811 to speak to a registered nurse.
Help is available. Most of the phone numbers below offer telephone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The hours for text messaging support or online chats may be different.
Adapted from Mental Health Promotion & Illness Prevention Team, Alberta Health Services.
To see this information online and learn more, visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca/health/pages/conditions.aspx?Hwid=custom.ab_recoverydisasteremergency_childteen_ac.
For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.
Current as of: July 21, 2022
Author: Emergency/Disaster Management, 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.