Disaster Safety for Children
Learn how to reduce and manage your child’s fears before, during and after a disaster or emergency.
Prepare Yourself with Knowledge
Find out which disasters are most common where you live, then visit our emergency resource library for specific tips on what to do and discuss. For example, if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your child should be taught to DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.
Next, check at your children’s schools, day care, or other locations where they regularly spend time. Find out what their emergency plans are so that you can reinforce them at home.
Share What You’ve Learned
Talk about emergency preparation with your family so that everyone knows what to do. Discussing ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for younger children.
Involve your entire family in preparation activities, such as assembling a survival kit. (You can find other quick, family-friendly disaster preparedness drills here.) Children can feel reassured knowing there’s a plan in place.
Your Child’s Response May Be Shaped By Yours
Feelings of fear are healthy and natural, but in a disaster, your children will be looking to you for clues on how to act:
A Child Who Feels Afraid Is Afraid
Your child may experience the emergency as being bigger than it actually is. Children's fears can be increased by their imagination, and you should take these feelings seriously. Your words and actions can provide reassurance; be sure to present a realistic picture that is both honest and manageable.
What to Expect
Children depend on familiar routines: wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, play with friends. When an emergency interrupts this routine, they may become anxious, confused, or frightened. These feelings may be expressed in a variety of ways: from clinginess to withdrawal; increased shyness to aggressiveness. Your child may return to previously outgrown behaviors such as thumb-sucking or carrying a cuddly toy.
What to Do
When the danger has passed, concentrate on your child's emotional needs by asking what's on his or her mind. Having children participate in your family's recovery activities will help them feel that life will soon return to "normal."
During their recovery, prevent young children from viewing television news reports of the event. The images can be very upsetting, particularly if the child is too young to realize they are watching repeated footage and not a new emergency.