Tüge Sungay After The Earthquake In Turkey The Situation Of Children And Worries About The Future (2)

Tüge Sungay / After the earthquake in Turkey: The situation of children and worries about the future

In the recovery efforts, we were all affected, we cheered, we cried, but in the next process;

“Children and their disaster stories should not be a communication tool for any political party, institution, or organization.”

“Every life rescued from the rubble has and continues to unite us as a country. The greatest contribution in the nationwide mobilization created by the sense of social solidarity is undoubtedly from the anonymous heroes working on the field from the first day. Their rights must not go unpaid.” says Communication Consultant Tüge Sungay. He then emphasizes the sensitivity that must be exercised in any communication that takes place through children, saying, “Children and their disaster stories should not be used as a communication tool by any political party, institution, or organization. Efforts should be made to build the future of children, not for political purposes. The issue must be handled with reason and composure. Traumatized children must be entrusted to psychiatrists who are experts in their field and all other areas of expertise must be managed under this overarching coordination. In every step taken, science-based knowledge must be our guide.”

After the two major earthquakes that shook Turkey deeply, covering 10 provinces and following each other on February 6, 2023 in Kahramanmaraş, Communication Consultant Tüge Sungay pointed out that the most sensitive group was children. He called on all public institutions, civil society organizations, health personnel, and educators to be careful and sensitive in their communication with children. He emphasized the importance of entrusting traumatized children, who have lost family members from the rubble, to expert psychiatrists in their field and managing all other areas of expertise under this overarching coordination.

Tüge Sungay After the earthquake in Turkey The situation of children and worries about the future (1)

“In disaster environments, children are stronger, more mature, and more hopeful than adults.”

After the passing of the intense event of an accident, terrorism or disaster, children often become stronger, more mature, and more hopeful than adults, pointed out Tüge Sungay, the Communication Consultant. Sungay emphasized the importance of avoiding disrupting this environment through wrong communication methods and causing permanent damage. Sungay stressed that all efforts should be carried out with sensitivity, keeping in mind “Child Rights” and listed the points to be considered in communication.

During and after a disaster, treat children like adults in communication.

Stay on the same level as the child during communication and make eye contact.

Use short sentences, communicate clearly, consistently, with a smiling and reassuring tone.

Introduce yourself briefly and explain why you are there.

Effective communication based on trust begins when you make the child feel heard. Express that you are listening and understand them.

Create an environment for the child to express their feelings and needs.

Prioritize their desires. Fulfilling desires in disaster situations where helplessness dominates will build a trustful environment between you and the child.

Do not answer questions that you do not know, but do not dodge any questions. Say, “I don’t have information on this, but I will learn and give you the information.”

Avoid sudden physical contact. Wait for the child to make the first step in approaching you, even if verbal, take their consent through body language. The child will come and hug you when you open your arms.

Do not pressure the child in any way.

Each child has a different experience and way of coping with events. Do not put yourself in their shoes, do not make assumptions, do not act with prejudices. Listen and try to understand the situation from the child’s perspective.

Use the power of non-verbal communication tools (writing, pictures, games…) in addition to verbal communication. Instead of commenting on their expression, talk about the picture or writing you did together, and prepare the environment for them to express themselves.

Remove children from environments where there are adults who are grieving, rebelling, inclined to violence, or experiencing high-level trauma.

Avoid questions such as “What were you doing before the event?” “Where was your mother/father/sibling?” “How did you escape?” and “Can you tell me about the incident?”

Try to keep children away from TV, radio, and social media news content after the disaster.

Relevant NGOs should monitor the protection of “Children’s Rights and Freedoms.”

All communication processes should be carried out taking into consideration the child’s age, physical and psychological development, cultural values, and the extent of the trauma they have experienced.

When you feel helpless and inadequate, seek professional support from psychiatrists and psychologists.

About Tüge Sungay:

Tüge Sungay, a graduate of Marmara University’s Faculty of Communication, started his career as a journalist in the Special News Unit of Nokta Magazine and continued his career in the field of brand management. He has served in the strategic communication planning processes of Turkey’s important institutions, multinational companies, and civil society organizations, and has led them. Sungay, who also consults on leader communication for Turkey’s leading CEOs, today brings forward different approaches that focus on children as the center of corporate human resources projects and use the therapeutic power of art.

He decided to use his knowledge and experience in communication to pass on to children through art, and seeing that visual arts can sometimes be more powerful than verbal communication, he completed the Art Therapy Education Program at Altinbaş University and then the Children’s Picture Analysis and Psychological Picture Test Training Program at Başkent University. Sungay is currently enrolled in Istanbul University’s Child Development Bachelor’s Program.


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