Save the Children works to set up children’s disaster relief services
While adults often experience difficulty coping with disasters, they can be especially damaging to a child’s developing psyche.
Community Preparedness Manager for Save the Children Aren Koenig attended and spoke at a series of Long Term Recovery Summits hosted by Nebraska Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster across flood affected areas last week, explaining the importance of helping children recover after disaster and to help equip long term recovery committees to help children.
Save The Children works to help children recover from disaster related trauma both in the Unites States and in 126 countries across the globe. Koenig supports communities across several states in their efforts to create programs that help children recover from disaster related trauma.
Children deal with trauma just as much as adults do, but they respond in different ways. Koenig explained that their response is typically age dependent, with younger children experiencing sleep deprivation and over-attachment to heir parents and care-givers. Children who have experienced flood trauma aged 2-7 may lash out aggressively or express a fear of water. Teens and pre-teens exhibit more cases of domestic violence and drug abuse.
Children tend to imitate the response of care-givers in their lives whether they are parents, grandparents, older siblings or other adults and role-models.
‘The best indicator of how a child is going to respond to disaster is looking at the care-givers around them and seeing the behaviors modeled by those care-givers,” she said.
Because of this dynamic, it is vitally important for care-givers to engage in self care. If care-givers fail to care for themselves, it is unlikely they will be able to capably provide for the children in their lives.
Save the Children’s specific goal in Nebraska is to equip communities with the tools and services they need to help children cope with flood related trauma before, during and after disaster. The goal, Koenig said, is to deploy tools and trained staff into existing community infrastructure like faith based groups and local libraries.
Koenig said she has been in Nebraska making connections and getting a sense of the underlying needs of children in the area. One concern she has is children in Nebraska City displaced because of economic factors relating to their parents.
Koenig said Save the Children will be working in Nebraska for the next year and a half, and their goal is to empower communities and set up disaster management services that will continue to service for years to come.
Save the Children changed its approach to responding to disasters over the last ten years because of the increase of devastating natural disasters due to global warming Koenig said. The organization now recognizes it must prepare children for multiple disaster events in their area in the future because natural disasters are no longer isolated events.
Koenig said her best piece of advice for care-givers was to pay attention to their reactions of the children in their care and to have open and honest one on one conversations with the children about how they are feeling.
“We’ve had families come up to us across the country and say ‘I didn’t know what my child was experiencing for years after because they were too afraid to tell me because they didn’t wanna add trauma or stress to me,'” Koenig said, “Make sure you have those open lines of communications.”