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Helping the Child and Family in Trauma


 This section of the manual focuses on helping children and their families deal with the emotional aftermath of a disaster. Major disaster events irrespective of their origin impact all persons who experience the event. Evidence from numerous disasters clearly demonstrates that persons who are impacted by the event either directly or indirectly will experience a range of feelings and emotions regarding the effect of the disaster and its consequences. While everyone interprets life events within the context of their experiences, children interpret their personal experiences within the limited context of their current stage of psychological development. As mentioned in the previous sections, the world of the child is defined by his or her stage of intellectual and emotional development, experiences with siblings and parents and extended family including grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, the child’s history and culture, and his or her school, peers, neighborhood, and community within which he or she lives. It is within the structure of these relationships that a child must cope with the impact of the disaster event.Understanding the definition(s) of family for a child is essential to under-standing the complexity of their emotional reaction to the disaster. Family in its most common definition is a group of persons consisting of parents and their children. However, in its broadest interpretation it can be defined as any class or group of related things. Thus given the appropriate context, a child’s family can be as broad as their neighborhood, community, or school, or as narrow as their relationship to their parents. Considering the various definitions of family when trying to assess the depth of impact of a disaster on children is important and necessary to determine appropriate crisis counseling and disaster mental health recovery strategies.Below are examples of some potential relationships that comprise the notion of family for children: children to natural parent, direct caregiver, or guardian children to brothers and sisters, living in the same and other households children to grandparents (maternal and fraternal) children to uncle, aunts, and cousins, within and distant from the impact area

children to significant non-related adults children to the world of their school (teachers, staff, and students) children to school friends and neighborhood friends — from their inner circle of very close confidants to casual acquaintances children to community of worship (church, synagogue) children to persons in the communities of reference, (e.g., local neighbor-hood, village, town, city, county)

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