Coping with Distress Post Earthquake

Dear St Anthony's Community

We know that there are a few children who have been affected by the recent earthquake. Here are some practical things you can do to help children manage fear and anxiety. The advice is derived from a tip sheet prepared by the University of Canterbury and we thought it would be good for our families to read. 

Tips for caregivers/parents dealing with the feelings triggered by the recent earthquakes.

1. Encourage the children express their feelings - it is natural for children to be distressed. Let them talk about what they have experienced.

2. Make a plan together for what to do during aftershocks - practice going to a safe place, breathing deeply and following instructions. Praise them for sensible decisions.

3. Explain what is happening in ways children can understand - use simple and direct language, for example; "the earth is shifting and it will eventually settle down. It may take a while but we are resilient and we are coping well."

4. Talk about your feelings in a calm way - children can sense our feelings, and it is helpful for us to acknowledge that. Talk to them when you are feeling calm and in control. Model the behaviour you want to see in your children.

5. Emphasise what is going right - natural disasters bring out the best in communities. Point out acts of generosity and kindness to your children.

6. Attempt to continue familiar routines - patterns are reassuring for children. Try to continue with as many of the normal daily tasks as you can.

7. Monitor media consumption - the repetition of traumatic images can be confusing for children. It can make them think the scale of the damage is greater than it actually is. Some children may also think the images are happening 'live'. Limit exposure to the news. Check their understanding and make sure they have a balanced view.

8. Prepare them for the return to early childhood care or school - some children may be anxious about leaving caregivers/parents. Reassure them plans are in place to deal with aftershocks. Accompany them to school if possible. A play-date with friends ahead of the return can help the transition go well.

All the best to you and your families. If you require any support at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Jennifer Ioannou