The impact of crises may affect youth and adults in different ways. For children and teens, knowing the signs that are common at different ages can help parents, teachers, school administrators, and other caregivers recognize problems and respond appropriately. Parents, schools, and youth caregivers in the community (foster homes, after-school programs, etc.) play an especially important role after a disaster or other crisis by reinforcing normal routines to the extent possible, helping kids adapt to a 'new normal' if new routines have to be established after a disater, and also in providing youth with information on ways to cope with the stress and aftermath of crises.
Children ages 3-5 may regress to an earlier behavioral stage, cling to a parent or teacher, or become attached to a place where they feel safe. Changes in eating and sleeping habits are also common. Reassurance is key for this age group. Maintain a normal routines in the home, classroom and other familiar settings and encourage children to express their feelings through play and artwork. Respond to kids' questions with simple and clear answers.
Youth ages 6-11 may have some of the same reactions that younger children have. They also may withdraw from playgroups and friends, compete more for the attention of parents and teachers, be unwilling to leave home, be less interested in schoolwork, become aggressive, have added conflict with peers or parents, or find it hard to concentrate. Physical reactions such as headaches or stomachaches are also common. Older children will benefit from opportunities to express their emotions through play and artwork. Encourage kids to participate in recreational activities. Parents, schools, and other caregivers should work to create as much stability and consistency as possible.
Teens ages 12-18 are likely to have physical complaints when under stress, and they may be less interested in schoolwork, chores, or other responsibilities that they previously handled. Although some teens may compete vigorously for attention from parents and teachers, they also may withdraw; resist authority; become disruptive or aggressive at home or in the classroom, which may manifest as bullying-type behavior; or begin to experiment with high-risk behaviors, such as alcohol or drug use.
Answer questions about the event honestly, but do not dwell on the details or allow the event to dominate family or classroom time indefinitely. Allow teens to express themselves through conversation and writing. Acknowledge that school performance may be affected and consider modifying lesson plans.
In addition to the suggestions above, the following tips can help parents, teachers and school administrators address the needs of youth affected by crises.
From Guide for Parents and Educators: Tips for Talking to Children and Youth After Traumatic Events.
In the aftermath of a crisis, most stress symptoms are temporary and will resolve on their own in a fairly short amount of time. However, for some people, these symptoms may not go away as quickly as they would like and it may influence their relationships with family and friends. If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for 2 weeks or longer, this may be a sign that you need to reach out to a licensed mental health professional for additional assistance:
From Tips for Survivors of a Traumatic Event: Managing Your Stress.