Children and disaster

Children and disaster

It makes sense to consider the topic ”children and disaster” as its own chapter. When children are exposed to circumstances that are beyond the usual scope of human experience (eg. a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or acts of violence), they may have difficulty understanding and coping with the events and may develop a range of symptoms, including trauma symptoms, depression, anxiety, or, if deaths are involved, bereavement. Children and their capability to cope with traumas are not yet stabilized as adults are. Psychosocial manifestations in children after a disaster are influenced greatly by the nature of the disaster itself, the level of exposure to the disaster, the extent to which the children and those around them are personally affected by the disaster, and the individual characteristics of children, including their age and stage of development. In addition, children are uniquely affected by disasters because they are afflicted not only by the trauma of the event but also by their parents’ fear and distress.

We have collected useful articles, guidelines, and websites concerning this topic. Many of the links although targeting children can nevertheless be considered valid and useful also for adults.

Children and Disaster; Teaching Recovery Techniques
Patrick Smith, Atle Dyregrov, William Yule – Children and War Foundation, 2002

This manual and accompanying workbook (90 p.)is a very useful how-to-do guide: helping childcare professionals to set up group lessons for children 8 years and older, who have survived the disaster. These lessons should help teach children in a step-by-step practical way to develop some skills and techniques which are helpful in coping with the psychological effects of disastrous events. They should work as prevention for later treatment: children who have learned and practiced the techniques contained here will be less likely to need specialist treatment services in the future. These lessons provide assistance for large numbers of children as quickly as possible. Please contact Atle Dyregrov at for a copy.

Inter-agency Guiding Principles on Unaccompanied and Separated Children
In almost all armed conflicts, mass population displacements, natural disasters and other crises, a number of children become separated from their families or from other adults responsible for them. These children form one of the most vulnerable groups in these situations, often deprived of care and protection. Most can be reunited with parents, siblings, members of the extended family or other adults whom they know and who are willing to provide for their care. Action on behalf of unaccompanied and separated children should be guided by principles enshrined in international standards. The validity of these principles has been confirmed by experience and lessons learnt from conflicts and natural disasters in recent years. The objective of the present publication (37 p.) is to outline the guiding principles which form the basis for action in this regard.

Save the Children Psychological First Aid Training
Save the children 2013
The Psychological First Aid Training Manual for Child Practitioners (PFA), aims to develop skills and competences of Save the Children staff, partners, and professionals in reducing the initial distress of children who have recently been exposed to a traumatic event.

Mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies
Millions of children around the world suffer unthinkable distress due to armed conflict, natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. They may be forced to flee their homes, some separated from their parents and caregivers along the way. During the conflict, they may endure staggering violence, severe injuries, and the threat of recruitment into armed groups. Many are cut off from fundamental services like clean water, health care and education, especially as towns become militarized and communities divided

Disaster and children 
NCTSN 2022
Natural disasters include hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, tsunamis, and floods, as well as extreme weather events such as blizzards, droughts, extreme heat, and wind storms. These events can lead to many adversities for children and families, including displacement, loss of home and personal property, changes in schools, economic hardship, loss of community and social support, and even the injury and death of loved ones.

Healing after Trauma Skills – a Manual for Professionals, Teachers, and Families working with Children after Trauma/Disaster
 Gurwich & Messenbaugh, Univ. of Oklahoma, 2005
Very good manual (104 p.) with a description of symptoms that may occur in children after the disaster, identifying the severity of the disease, and suggestions on how to cope/treat. Detailed instructions, how-to-do step-by-step, can be used as a workshop manual. Target group: professionals/clinicians (teachers, families).

Children In Disasters: Teachers and Childcare
CDC 2021
Emergencies and disasters can happen during the school day. Taking steps now can help protect the students in your care.

Your Child Is At Risk for Mental Health Issues After a Disaster
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities 2018
After a disaster, children may experience anxiety, fear, sadness, sleep disruption, distressing dreams, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and anger outbursts. Learn the signs of children’s mental stress to help them cope after a disaster.