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When Disaster Strikes: 3 Stages of Emotion Kids Experience

FactsYou may have seen on the news the Colorado flooding that has (at the time of writing) taken three lives. Our prayers go out to all those impacted by this disaster.

Kids are seeing the devastation on televisions and newspapers and are hearing adults talk about it. The children you work with may have difficulty understanding and processing a disaster like this. They may end up confused and full of questions.

The subject can be difficult to tackle, but it gives us a chance to grow closer to God.

After the Oklahoma tornadoes hit earlier this year, we posted a blog, Five Tips for Dealing with Disasters. If your ministry has been touched by this disaster, or if you're not sure what you'd do if something like this happened to you, make sure to check it out.

Continuing where that blog left off, I wanted to share with you some tips on caring for and counseling children when traumatic events hit. The following information comes from Group'sEmergency Response Handbook for Children's Ministry.


Supporting children and their families after a traumatic event can lessen the dramatic impact the event might otherwise have on their lives. In order to help, it's important to know what emotions the child will go through. There are several stages of emotions to consider.

First: Shock and Confusion-Shortly after a traumatic event, a child's mind will not be able to work as it usually does. The child may appear stunned and respond to things you say without much thought. You'll see physical symptoms of stress such as shaking hands or sweating, but the child will probably have little emotional response at this stage.

Second: Emotional Response-After the initial shock has passed, a child will start to feel the emotional effects of the event. You may see:
• Increased anxiety-sensitivity, asking a lot of questions, talking about things he or she is afraid of, worrying the tragedy will happen again, fear of sleeping, nightmares.
• Clinginess-fear of separation from parents or caregivers, asking where his or her parents are, difficulty going to school or church.
• Anger and resentment-lashing out at loved ones, expressing anger at the tragic event.
• Regression-reverting back to younger behaviors such as whining, crying, clinging, or bed-wetting.

Third: Return to Normal Life-After a few weeks, the child will be begin to adjust back to his or her routine. The sooner the schedule can be re-established, the faster the recovery. At this phase, the child may start to go through a grieving period for what he or she has lost, but will be better able to manage emotions at this point.

Children need a lot of support and reassurance after a traumatic event. Knowing that there are people who are willing to help will comfort kids and help them feel safe. It's important to go to the child instead of offering to take care of the child somewhere else. Immediately following a tragedy, children feel safest when they are close to their parents or trusted caregivers and in familiar surroundings, if possible.


Again, our prayers go out to all those impacted by the Colorado floods.

Posted at 12:00


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