Children affected by disasters face tremendous distress and uncertainty. Children watching the news, following social media can also feel anxious, afraid, and unsafe. Nilay Uğurlu Öztürk, Clinical Psychologist of Izmir University of Economics (IUE), made recommendations to parents about helping their children cope with earthquake. Öztürk, who indicated that parents should try to explain earthquake to their children through concrete examples and games, said, “Pay attention to your child’s worries. Don’t ignore their questions, try to answer their questions carefully. Tell them that earthquake is a natural disaster. Some parents try to take advantage of the situation and tell their children that if they don’t study, or if they misbehave, there would be another earthquake, etc. Parents should definitely avoid such discourse as it might result in creating more trauma for children.”
Clinical Psychologist Nilay Uğurlu Öztürk, who works at IUE Psychological Development and Counselling Center, shared valuable information with parents about how they should communicate with their children about earthquake, and what they should do to minimize the negative effects of this process. Reminding that children think of adults as role models, what adults say and how they behave have a tremendous effect on children, Öztürk said, “Children listen to, and observe adults, and try to make sense of conversations. Therefore, parents should be extremely careful about what they say or watch in front of children. Children feel similar feelings to whatever feeling the parent has about earthquake. It is very difficult for children to feel calm when their parents are very worried. Therefore, parents need to be aware of their own feelings primarily. They need to discuss earthquake with their children, who are aware of earthquake or overheard conversations about it, in a way they can understand by presenting examples suitable to their age group. Parents can tell their children that earthquake is a natural process, and that the house they live in is a safe place, or their daily life won’t get affected by it.”
“HELP THEM EXPRESS THEIR FEELINGS”
Öztürk followed her conversation as: “What children need is to know that they are safe. They might have questions. Trying to answer their questions carefully, using expressions appropriate for their age, explaining earthquake through games would be very helpful. Too many details might make them feel worried. Explaining it briefly, identifying your children’s feelings is important. Ignoring or suppressing their emotions might cause them to become introverted. Therefore, parents need to help their children express how they feel. There are certain behaviors to avoid during this process. For example, telling children that if they don’t study, or if they misbehave, there would be another earthquake, or that earthquake is a warning to them, is absolutely wrong. Parents might think that such frightening conversations are deterrent to misbehaving. However, they might have traumatic results for children.”
“THUMB SUCKING, NAIL BITING, BEDWETTING CAN BE SIGNS”
Öztürk pointed that an expert should be consulted for psychological support should children’s worries about earthquake continue. “It is of utmost importance to seek psychological support if your child’s worries continue or has difficulty to adjust their mood. Bedwetting, nightmares, thumb sucking, nail biting, outbursts, having difficulty to calm down, becoming introverted are indicators that your child needs psychological support, reported,” Öztürk.