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Helping children recover from natural disasters

Research carried out at the University of Hull is exploring how best to help children recover from the trauma of floods and other natural disasters.

PhD researcher Florence Halstead is undertaking a participatory project to ascertain the perceptions and experiences of children exposed to flooding in the UK and Vietnam.

Ms Halstead wants to use digital technologies to ensure the voices of children are heard by those involved in natural disaster research, policy and decision making.

“Children are a too often marginalised group within societies and their personal experiences are neglected,” she explained.

“By involving children in the research process we can gain a better understanding of their views, feelings and experiences and adapt policy and decision making in light of this.”

Ms Halstead has used her research to draw up a list of five tips to help children recover from natural disasters.

By involving children in the research process we can gain a better understanding of their views, feelings and experiences and adapt policy and decision making in light of this. Florence Halstead,
PhD researcher at the University of Hull

1. Encourage children to talk

Even if a child seems fine, let them know that their feelings are important and let their voice be heard. Children who get a chance to speak about their own feelings and experiences often recover much more quickly.

2. Involve kids in the cleanup

Previous research on flooding shows that children who are involved in the cleanup and recovery process, have a much better sense of the situation and experience less trauma. This doesn’t have to be big tasks – just whatever they are capable of.

3. Know that they might struggle

Monitor your child’s behaviour and keep a close eye on them to check if they are acting differently. Try not to criticise your child for any changes in behaviour and instead talk to them about their feelings about what has happened.Let them know they are safe and you love them.

4. Give kids the facts

If it’s happened once, there is every chance it could happen again. You may need to educate yourself first, but teach your child about the causes of natural disasters such as flooding, as well as the ways you can protect yourselves as a family in the future.

5. Try to create a routine and stick to it

Try to maintain as much routine in your child’s life as possible. This might be hard if you have to move to temporary accommodation or if their school closes, but by maintaining routine that you can control – like meal and bed times – you can provide a sense of reassurance.

A version of this article previously appeared in The Conversation.

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