Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. While many adults are also affected by this, children who have experienced a big earthquake are very likely to struggle with this. Common symptoms include: Re-experiencing, Avoidance, and Hyperarousal.
You can find various information about PTSD online, so I'll focus on how you can help your children here.
Make children feel secure and relieved
- do not leave them alone
- eat and play together
- hug them and hold their hands
- tell them that it is normal to feel sadness, anger, anxiety
- to those who blame themselves, tell them "it is not your fault"
- say "I'll protect you" and "We are safe/okay" instead of "Do your best" or "Be patient"
- talk about pleasant memories
- do not scold them even if they behave badly
Discuss what they are confused about
- ask what they are actually anxious about, with what they are struggling
- do not generalize or dodge the problem
- answer confidently, even if they repeat the same question over and over
Accept their feelings calmly and sincerely
- when they talk, get down to the same height as them, look them in the eyes, make brief responses while listening, and never interrupt them
- do not force them to talk if they don't want to
Provide opportunities for them to play and act
- at their own pace, let them communicate with friends through sports or play
- let them express freely by drawing, singing, and writing
- the feeling of helping others makes them feel good, so let them help you with easy things
If adults show their anxiety, children's symptoms may get worse or cause them to try to hide their anxiety and stress. In cases of disasters like this, however, it is often impossible for adults to be totally calm; adult anxiety is also normal.
So, please do not push yourself too hard. Please ask for help; often others will be helped by helping you. Talk to other adults, counselors, friends, or other parents in the same shelter or area. Incorporate and take turns with them in caring for the children.
The most important thing is to listen to children sincerely, and have fun with them. Talk about your favorite movie, food, memory, and smile together.
Even during the hardest times, do not forget to smile, to have hope, and to appreciate that you are alive.