In light of the raging storms and natural disasters that have been occurring lately, it’s time to talk about how these disasters affect children. On some level, everyone is aware of how devastating storms, such as Harvey and Irma, can be. Looking closer, though, one becomes aware of the long-range effects such disasters have on families, particularly children and especially displaced children.
There has not been much research on the impact of long term recovery and displaced children. One person who has studied the long-term effects of natural disasters on kids is Carolyn Kousky. She is the Director of Policy Research and Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania’s Warton Risk Center. Her findings are a wake-up call to all of us who care about kids.
Natural Disasters and Their Impact on Children
In most natural disasters, people die, including children. Those who survive the disaster have a variety of trauma to overcome. Injuries, illnesses and mental health issues play a role in the long term recovery of everyone involved.
For children who have been displaced under these circumstances, the problems are exacerbated. Kousky mentions in her research how disasters can damage kids. Physical health can be affected, if not by injury from the disaster, by conditions after the disaster. For example, she cites malnutrition, diarrheal illness from contaminated water and the problems caused by being unable to access proper medical care as possible problems. This is especially devastating when a child needs certain medications for an existing health issue, such as asthma or diabetes.
In addition to the physical damage children bear, there is the mental toll such events take on little ones. They no longer have the home they are accustomed to. Their belongings are gone or ruined and, in some cases, they have been separated from their parents. In other cases, they witness the stress and strain their parents or caregivers endure as a result of the disaster. All of these things affect a child’s physical and psychological well-being.
Giving Displaced Children Hope
There are some things that can be done to minimize the damage displaced children experience as a result of a natural disaster. One of the first things is to reunite them with their parents or caregivers as soon as possible. Parents and caregivers need help to deal with their own post-disaster psychological symptoms. When their PSTD levels are high, those of the children are high as well.
It may be impossible to get displaced kids back to a normal life quickly, however, striving to do so will help tremendously. Understanding that kids may have reactions such as acting out and displays of aggressiveness, and meeting those bouts with patience and compassion will be helpful, too. Give kids an opportunity to talk out their feelings and express their concerns. These things will help in the long-term recovery of children displaced by natural disasters.
It’s always best to be proactive and prepared before disaster strikes. Taking action before action becomes necessary is one way to mitigate problems should a disaster occur. Consider creating a plan with your family members on what to do and where to go if a natural disaster occurs.
At Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., we believe in being prepared for the unexpected. We also believe in helping our neighbors. We provide excellent legal service to those suffering from personal injury. Serving the communities of the southwestern Florida area surrounding and including Englewood, North Port, and Port Charlotte, we invite you to call us for a complimentary consultation for your personal injury case.