Advice To Families For Children Starting School After The Earthquake Müge Leblebicioğlu Arslan (2)

Advice to Families for Children Starting School After the Earthquake / Müge Leblebicioğlu Arslan

Leblebicioğlu said that it is extremely important for us to be informed about what awaits children and adults in the process of starting school, which is one of the most important steps of normalization after the earthquake, and to maintain the process in a healthy way, and stated that children and adolescents are more affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes than adults.

Emphasizing the importance of these effects, Leblebicioğlu said, “However, this level of impact may vary depending on factors such as the direct or indirect exposure to the disaster, age, attitudes of caregivers, and exposure to social media. Although the psychological impact of natural disasters on children and adolescents is thought of as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ‘PTSD’, it would be a wrong mindset to think that every child will experience the same problem after a disaster. Everything that the child experiences, which is too much for him and cannot bear, can be called trauma. In addition to PTSD after trauma; It can be said that depression, adjustment problems, anger problem, constant crying, fear of going to school, separation anxiety, regression of acquired skills, phobias and pathological grief are the most common psychological effects after children and adolescents.

Advice to Families for Children Starting School After the Earthquake Müge Leblebicioğlu Arslan (1)
Specialist Clinical Psychologist Müge Leblebicioğlu Arslan / Istanbul Okan University Hospital

Advice from the Expert to the Families

The first step is to inform the child who will start school about the earthquake. One of the biggest mistakes made would be to try to act as if nothing had happened to the child and not to explain the concept of earthquake. This may cause children to be exposed to the existing reality, directly or indirectly, in a vulnerable way when they start school. It is extremely important for the child to first obtain information about the current situation from the person they trust. Concretizations made in accordance with the child’s age and developmental level facilitate the child’s processing of the traumatic event.

Routines play a major role in the processing of trauma. One of the most important parts of these routines for the child is school. An anxious child after an earthquake may not want to go to school. At this point, both parents and teachers should be able to see the emotions of the child, and take a role in helping them cope with their emotions with embodied and safe messages that will relieve their anxiety.

The child who will start school may want to sleep with his family during this process. The family can meet the needs of the child in the acute period without rejecting it as follows; “You may be afraid right now, so you may want to sleep together. We can sleep together for a while.” Only by gradually separating can help the child feel safe.

In order to re-establish the child’s sense of trust, “What should be done at home and at school at the time of disaster? Where are the safe spaces?” should be shared and shown with the child. At this point, it is extremely important to give the message “You are safe now and it is safe here”.

It is extremely important to be able to express emotions easily in the family. A child who expresses his feelings at home will turn into a child who can express his feelings at school. The child who has difficulty in expressing his fear and anxiety may be restless when he starts school, may not want to go to school or may have difficulty concentrating. Expression of emotion facilitates the child’s ability to process the trauma. On the contrary, “A man is not afraid. Expressions such as “You have become a big man, you are crying.” “You are an older sister” should be avoided. These statements will make the child feel misunderstood, causing the child to suppress their emotions and have difficulty processing the trauma.

Children of parents who are worried about their child going to school may also have difficulties in going to school. Because emotions are contagious. Therefore, it is very important for parents to be able to regulate their own emotions in this process. In this difficult process for the parent himself, emotional disintegration such as fear, anxiety and panic should not occur with the child as much as possible.

The contagion of emotions is present not only in the parent-child relationship, but also in the school-child relationship. Group work done in the classroom, for example; Children’s writing letters to earthquake victims, preparing aid boxes, and painting together will help all children in the classroom to restructure their sense of belonging, unity, togetherness and security and regulate their in-group feelings.

The reactions shown in the acute period after trauma are expected and normal. However, if the level of symptoms is increasing and the child’s functionality has begun to deteriorate, it would be correct to consult a mental health specialist at this point.

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