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On the last track, we discussed helping parents handle two kinds of questions children may ask about emergency preparedness in an age appropriate manner. These two kinds of questions are, questions about safe rooms, and questions about armed police and military personnel.
On this track, we will discuss three differences among the different types of natural disasters, using the specific examples of hurricanes and earthquakes, and how they may affect children’s psychological well being. These three differences are, predictability, duration, and the scale of the disaster. We will also discuss three similarities common to all types of natural disasters, including cost and disruption, effect on families, and effects on children.
Difference #1 - Predictability
Clearly, high casualty rates can add substantially to the impact of a disaster. Pynoos and colleagues, following a severe earthquake in Armenia, found that many survivors were most traumatized by the cries of friends and relatives trapped under rubble. In many cases, these trapped survivors could not be rescued, and the cries went on for many days as they slowly died from thirst, starvation, or injury. This aspect of unpredictable disasters like earthquakes adds significantly to the traumatic impact.
Difference #3 - Scale of the Disaster
In contrast, the effects of tornadoes and some earthquakes may be extremely localized, which may facilitate quick rebuilding, as unaffected community members may help those severely affected by the disaster. However, in these cases the affected community members may experience a sense of isolation, rather than the sense of community spirit and shared experience among survivors of a community-wide disaster.
3 Similarities Common to All Natural Disasters
Despite their differences, less predictable events such as tornadoes and earthquakes have, in my experience, three commonalities with predictable disasters such as hurricanes, which can help a therapist develop a framework for understanding children’s susceptibility to post traumatic stress after a disaster in more general terms.
Similarity #1 - Cost & Life Disruption
Similarity #2 - Effects on the Family
Families’ post-disaster lives may serve as daily reminders of the trauma. Schools may be overcrowded to acocmodate relocated students, damaged buildings and rubble may be left untended to for months, leaving visual reminders, and modern conveniences such as electricity and clean water may be unavailable or limited for weeks, or in the case of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, even longer.
Similarity #3 - Effects on Children
Think of a child you are currently treating for post traumatic stress related to a natural disaster. How has the nature of the type of natural disaster this client experienced influenced his or her psychological functioning in regards to the similarities and differences we have discussed on this track?
On this track, we have discussed three differences among the different types of natural disasters, using the specific examples of hurricanes and earthquakes, and how they may affect children’s psychological well being. These three differences are, predictability, duration, and the scale of the disaster. We also discussed three similarities common to all types of natural disasters, including cost and disruption, effect on families, and effects on children.
On the next track, we will discuss three important concerns in treating children in recovery from a natural disaster. The three important concerns we will discuss are specific obstacles in treating children recovering from natural disaster, interventions in the initial recovery period, and interventions in the long-term recovery period.
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