The beginning of this year has been one with many disruptions. It’s seen many families, of both staff and students within the diocese, experience the significant effects of the flood event. Overall, the response to the events from our school communities has been amazing. Both practical help with clean-up efforts and preparing food for families, to the emotional support offered for school staff and families has been well received.
Whilst we are very much still in the recovery stage of this natural disaster, it is important for us to be aware of the typical responses that we may be seeing in children and adolescents, and the strategies that we can implement to assist them.
- Maintain usual routines - For a lot of families who’ve been displaced from their homes they may now have the opportunity to create these new routines. This is important for children and adolescents to give a strong message that life is continuing after a natural disaster. Routines also provide comfort and reassurance.
- Witnessing adults coping effectively – when children and adolescents see their parents coping well, it helps them to understand how to cope also. Children model their parents behaviour, so finding a way to work through and cope with feelings of distress in a healthy manner is important.
- Be mindful of your child’s responses – whilst there is no one way ‘standard’ response to a natural disaster, it is important for parents to be mindful of the reactions their child is having. Whilst reactions will vary greatly, keep an eye on the extent that the reaction is impairing your child’s daily functioning. If your child’s response does not seem to have improved and is currently impacting on their lives significantly (e.g. withdrawing from friends socially; unable to sleep; avoiding normal routine such as school or sport; loss of appetite) then it may be worth consulting with your school guidance counsellor or family GP to receive further advice. There are numerous community organizations that have received grants for counselling following the flood event, so don’t be afraid to ask!
- Look after yourself – as parents it is very easy to focus on your children and forget about your own feelings. Take time to pay attention to your own needs, ensure you’re utilizing healthy coping mechanisms and take time out for yourself.