Following floods or other disasters, a child may show signs of distress, including:
- Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, shouting or screaming.
- Older children may behave like younger children. They may resume bed wetting, clinging to their parents, frequent crying, thumb-sucking, and/or being afraid to be left alone.
- Some children may become unusually active or aggressive, while others may become shy, quiet, withdrawn and sad.
- Complaints such as headache, stomach ache, fever, cough, lack of appetite – these can be signs of either illness or psychological distress.
These reactions are all NORMAL during disasters. For most children, these behaviours will disappear with time, as they return to normal life.
What can you do?
- Recognize that this is a challenging time but you can manage. You have overcome hardships at other times in your life.
- Allow yourself and your children to mourn the losses you have experienced, including lost home, belongings and/or family members.
- Try and keep a positive outlook. This will help your children have hope for the future.
- Support each other and accept help from friends, relatives, community and religious leaders.
- Do not promise your children things you cannot provide.
- Do promise that you will do anything you can to care for and protect them.
- Talk to your children. Pay attention to them and let them explain their concerns and fears.
- Try to give your children accurate information about what is happening.
- Try to maintain everyday routines, such as eating, bathing and sleeping.
- Try to continue breastfeeding babies and young children, if possible. Mothers’ groups can support you with this
- Encourage your children to help out, with appropriate activities. Children cope better and recover sooner when they help others.
- Encourage your children to play with other children.
- Encourage your children to do school work (reading, maths, writing), even if there is no school for them to attend.
- Being caring and tell your children that you love them. This will reassure them.
- Do not criticise your children for changes in their behaviour, such as clinging to parents, or seeking reassurance frequently. This is normal and will pass.
- Children should be encouraged to talk about their experiences with peers and trusted adults. This will help them process what has happened to them and reduce stress.
- When children’s reactions are severe and last for a long time, they may need help from a professional. You can seek advice from your local child protection worker, District Social Welfare Office, or doctor.
- Children may fear further disasters, such as another flood. Discussing a family plan for any future disaster can help increase their sense of safety.
- Engage in healthy behaviour where you can. If possible, eat well and try to rest. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Establish routines, such as regular eating, bathing, and bed times.