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After Disaster: When to Worry About Children Post Trauma

A young volunteer pets a comfort dog in White Sulphur Springs after the floods.
A young volunteer pets a comfort dog in White Sulphur Springs after the floods.

Natural disasters such as the historic floods West Virginia experienced in late June can be particularly frightening for children.

“They are witnessing their caregiver, many times who is their person of trust, their person of security, experience panic, experience fear, things that that child may never have witnessed their caregiver experience and that can be as offsetting for a child as the flood itself,” said Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Center in a conversation with Appalachia Health News reporter Kara Lofton earlier this month.

Chittenden-Laird said the range of what children experience during natural disaster is really not just based on the fact that children survived a flood, but on what everyone in their community, in their sphere, is experiencing as well.

A few tips about how to support your child?

  • Listen.
  • Seek outside help when needed.
  • Give more time to complete school assignments.
  • Be present.
  • Create a new rhythm or structure to help build security.

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Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.

Copyright 2016 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Kara Leigh Lofton is the Appalachia Health News Coordinator at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Previously Kara was a freelance reporter for WMRA, an affiliate of NPR serving the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville in Virginia. There she produced 70 radio reports in her first year of reporting, most often on health or environmental topics. One of her reports, “Trauma Workers Find Solace in a Pause That Honors Life After a Death,” circulated nationally after proving to be an all-time favorite among WMRA’s audience.