How to help children and adolescents to face a disaster?

With the month of most cyclonic activity, September, both parents and school educators have a great challenge: to talk to children and youth so that they can be prepared for any natural phenomenon.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention According to the CDC, “the way children react is due, in part, to what they observe in the adults around them.” Therefore, when parents or caregivers know how to manage the disaster calmly and safely, they provide children and young people with the best support. In this way, adults can transmit tranquility to those around them.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides some recommendations for educators and families to address doubts and fears in an emergency:

  • Family members or educators should pay attention to the emotions of their children or students. Children and adolescents can feel fear, even if they do not express it openly. Therefore, it is important to talk to them about the matter.
  • People’s age influences how they respond to a disaster. When they are four years old, the concern will be reflected by wanting to sleep in the parents’ bed; at eight years old, he will not want to go to school, making excuses that he feels bad; and in adolescence, he will come into conflict with his parents more than usual.
  • At home and at school, the disaster can be recreated through games. In this way, the little ones can develop a sense of control and reduce their anxiety about the passage of a hurricane or a traumatic event.
  • Parents should be aware of the news that their children watch, since not all of them are suitable for them. Seeing shocking scenes of catastrophes can cause the child or adolescent to believe that the same thing can happen to them, so it is necessary to talk about the media content and for them to understand that any type of disaster can affect anyone.
  • Pay attention to the content they see through social networks, mainly adolescents. Without a good media education, they are more prone to damage, manipulation and mistrust. Therefore, it is a good opportunity to take an interest in the content they consume through these platforms, and how they internalize and share it.

How is CERT doing?

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has different supplemental curricula for children from first grade to youth who are already in their fourth year of high school. These manuals include project lessons and research and learning activities that are age-appropriate.

“We are taking these curricula to young people, through the Bureau (for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration). Schools are visited, according to the requests they make,” said CERT instructor Nelson Román, about how they are preparing youth so that they can face any type of emergency.

In the talks, the facilitators transmit the information to the children through games, so that they can assimilate what a disaster implies, Román mentioned.

Similarly, Román emphasized the importance of working on these issues not only from home, but also from the school community.

“It is very important to work on this from school, because I have had the opportunity to give talks and, sometimes, the children understand more and when an emergency comes, they tell their father: ‘Look, daddy, no, that’s not So. Do it this way because I learned this at school’. It is that little seed that one is sowing there, which is so that they understand that, in an emergency, the most important thing is to be calm to be able to react to any type of situation”, explained Román.

Likewise, Roman mentioned that CERT Teen is aimed at young people from 12 to 17 years old, and the teenagers do very well in the practice exercises.

“We give them that manual part, so to speak, where they can help the victim: carry the victim and give him the treatment with that purpose of stabilizing,” said Román.

If you want your child, your community, the school or college where your child works or attends, to be impacted by the CERT Kid and Teen training, you can contact the Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD), by calling 787-724-0124, CERT extension. These trainings are free.

How to help children and adolescents to face a disaster?