Social Workers Offer Tips for Coping with Stress from Disasters
Attached are some Tips for Families: Coping with the Stress of Natural
Disasters, developed by the National Association of Social Workers. Please
feel free to use or disseminate this tip sheet in any way you see fit.
The North Dakota Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has
taken the initiative in putting social workers in touch with the Red Cross,
Salvation Army, and other organizations that deploy volunteers in response to
the flood. The chapter has contacted professional social workers in the state,
informing them how to volunteer their services. The chapter plans to follow up
with its members after the crisis ends, given the long-term impact of this
For further information, contact Jon Hiratsuka at mailto:email@example.com or
For Immediate Release: April 23, 1997
TIPS FOR FAMILIES
Coping with the Stress of Natural Disasters
In the aftermath of a natural disaster, there are new challenges. Rebuilding
and repairing homes. Coping with job loss or job changes. Schools not open.
Little privacy. The need to guard against disease. At times it is overwhelming.
Everything is different.
Keeping families together and healthy over the coming months will require
Here are some suggestions:
Try to establish a routine for your family life. Regular bed times,
wake up times, regular breaks, and eating meals together -- all these can help
you and your children feel more secure.
Set aside time just for family. With all the activity going on around
you and people coming and going, it is important to find time to be together
without a lot of distractions. As tough as it may be, try to find a little time
each day for yourself and time alone with your spouse or partner. Those times
can help you find the energy you need for the rest of the day.
Be sure that all family members are included in making plans. Talk to
your children and spouse or partner about your options and your decisions.
Listen to what they have to say and try to respond to their concerns.
Avoid physical punishment of children, including spanking or slapping.
With all the pressure tempers flare and itís easy to go too far.
Reassure your children about the future. Let them know that you have
been frightened and uncertain too, but that you are working things out, and life
will eventually return to normal.
Sending children to stay with family members or close friends outside the
disaster area until homes can be repaired or rebuilt and schools can open
may be an option. If you choose to do this, make sure your children understand
that they are not being punished and that the move is temporary. Try to visit
and call them often so they donít feel so cut off from you.
Trust your instincts. You have done well to make it this far, you can
make it the rest of the way.
Donít be afraid to ask for help. No one can deal with the problems
caused by the disaster on his or her own. Help is available through the Red
Cross Centers for both resource needs and physical and emotional
Experiencing a disaster is difficult for everyone. It is unrealistic to think
that either we or children will just forget about it and move along. Over the
next few weeks, many of us will experience stress. This is normal.
- headaches, stomach aches or nausea
- trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
- trouble concentrating
- mood swings or outbursts of crying
In children, signs of stress may also include:
- increased clinging to parents
- a return to outgrown behaviors such as bed wetting or thumb sucking.
- a change in the way he or she plays, such as repeating the same game over
and over, or more hitting playmates or breaking toys.
Many of these things are normal in the weeks following a disaster. It will
help to find time to talk to others about what has happened to you and what you
face. Talk to your children and listen to their concerns. Give yourself and your
children time to grieve for the things that you have lost. Set aside time for
yourself and time to be alone as a family. Let your emotions out. Cry when you
need to, but donít let tears rule your life. Set priorities and try to deal with
just a few things at a time.
If you feel as though you or your children are showing the signs of stress to
an extreme, seek help. The Red Cross has social workers and other mental health
professionals available to help you.
Remember, the aftermath of a natural disaster is an extreme situation.
Asking for the help you and your family need is a strength not a