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How to help your child cope with everyday disasters

By Everlyne Judith Kwamboka | Jan 26th 2019 | 2 min read

Waking up in the morning, he sat on his bed and started to scream.

“Mummy, daddy… they are coming to shoot us. I do not want to go back to that school,” the child cried.

He was among those evacuated from schools near the 14 Riverside Drive Complex when terrorists struck at 15.30pm last Tuesday.

The incident has now left most of the parents, including those whose children returned home from school only to find adults watching television in the living room, counseling their children to cope with the situation.

Reassure children

Save the Children Programme Development and Quality Director Jane Mbagi-Mutua said there is need for parents or guardians to reassure the children that they should not fear because all is being done to protect them.

“While it is important for adults to stay informed about disaster, television images and reports may be confusing and frightening for children. Watching too many TV reports on the disaster can overwhelm children and even adults,” she said.

She said parents should find out what their children know about the disaster and talk to them to understand the situation.

Twitter user @Mamanursery commented on #KenyaAttack that she spent Tuesday evening trying to answer her child’squestions on why the terrorists were shooting and what the people had done to be shot at.

According to tips prepared by the Save the Children on howto help children cope with disaster, minors learn how to deal with these events by how you respond.

Equal rights activist Boniface Mwangi, who had just picked his children from school, heard a loud bang followed by gunshots and within seconds, there were ambulances being driven to the scene to carry the injured as heavily armed policemen moved in.

“I had to tell them that the ambulances were going in to carry the injured people to hospital and the policemen had to stop bad people from injuring more men and women. I had to further explain what good and bad people can do,” he said.

Ms Mutua said there is need for parents to monitor changes in their children’s sleeping patterns, eating habits and concentration levels.

Every child has his own way of experiencing a disaster and their recovery depends on how parents interpret the events.

For instance, a child who saw the incident on television only to learn later that he had lost a parent is likely to behave differently.

“Those taking care of children who lost their loved ones should give them as much support as they can. Let them speak about it even through drawing; listen to what they are saying and help them process the information,” she added.

Such children, she said need extra love so that they can live a normal lives.

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