Earthquakes and Kids

     Earthquakes affect children as much or even more than they affect us adults. It is our duty as adults to protect our children from psychological damage as well as physical damage. Children are affected by the events they experience according to the reactions of their families, especially their closest environment. Negative emotions such as fear and anxiety are transmitted to children from their closest environment. For this reason, we should first train ourselves to be calm in case of an earthquake, and if we cannot cope with this anxiety, we should seek support from appropriate specialized centers. Because during an earthquake, children are most affected by the attitudes and behaviors of those closest to them. Wrong attitudes and behaviors can have a serious traumatic effect on children. In fact, it has been observed that panic and frightening behaviors in the environment can psychologically harm our children more than the earthquake itself. We should make our children feel that we are with them and that they are safe by keeping calm.   

As human beings, we find it difficult to cope with uncertain things. Especially children cannot identify the earthquake if they have not been properly informed. They may feel guilty about this situation or they may attribute extraordinary meanings with their high imagination.             

              We should make age-appropriate explanations and definitions about what an earthquake is. Explaining this situation by using toys and books distracts children from anxiety.    We should talk to our children about what to do in case of an earthquake and even prepare them for a possible earthquake by practicing these together. Preparing the earthquake bag together and informing our children about it will also be beneficial. Making our children feel that they are safe during and after an earthquake is the most important thing we can do. 

            We should not talk too often or at length about earthquakes in the presence of our children, and we should keep our children away from images of destruction and debris in earthquake zones. Especially in these periods, we should be more careful to keep our children away from such images of media channels such as TV and internet.

           Symptoms such as bedwetting, sleep disorders, nightmares, speech disorders, eating disorders, nail biting, finger sucking, fear of being alone, causeless pain, introversion and tantrums are frequently seen in our children after the earthquake. If complaints persist, it is necessary to seek support from appropriate counseling centers.

        We should not forget that the negative effects of earthquakes are caused not only by not taking the necessary precautions, but also by panic and inappropriate escape behaviors in the event of an earthquake, both physical and psychological damages. Just as we take precautions for physical damages, we should prepare ourselves and our children in line with the recommendations given to prevent psychological damages.

Şükrü Cido MD.
Turkiye Hospital Pediatrics Departmant