The Role of the Family As discussed earlier, many factors can inﬂuence the child’s psychological deﬁ
nition of family. However, for purposes of the current discussion, the child’s family is deﬁned in terms of signiﬁcant persons providing caregiving and support, who are also members of the child’s nuclear and extended family structure. Since children live in family systems, both the experience of the disaster and recovery from its aftermath are most often mutually experienced. Consequently, children will share common aspects of the disaster event experience. Te retelling of these experiences between the adults and children in the family can normalize the overwhelming rush of feelings associated with the disaster. For many families,the role of the outreach worker is simply to give them permission to share their feelings with each other and to communicate that having disaster related feelings is normal and sharing these feelings with each other is appropriate and healthy. A function of the crisis counseling program is to convey information to parents about the common reactions of families to trauma and loss following a disaster.Often parents deny the need for this type of information for themselves, but will gladly participate in programs or gatherings where this type of information is provided for helping support their children. Typically parents will recognize stress reactions and accompanying behavioral changes in their children, before they recognize them in themselves. Te disaster mental health worker helps all members of the family unit by sensitizing parents to the signs of stress in their children and suggesting strategies for helping their children.Outreach workers can remind parents of these simple facts: ■ Parents should acknowledge the parts of the disaster that were frightening to them and other adults. ■ Parents should not falsely minimize the danger as it will not end a child’s concerns. ■ Te child’s age aﬀects how he or she will respond to the disaster. (A six-year-old may express his or her concerns by refusing to attend school, while an adolescent may express his or her concerns by arguing more with parents.) ■ Te way the child sees and understands his or her parent’s response is veryimportant. ■ Parents should admit their concerns and also stress their abilities to cope with the situation.Often the role of the family is simply to learn to work together to solve problems and actively recognize the needs and feelings of both the children and the adults. The identiﬁcation of concrete issues that are problematic for the family unit, as well as for individuals within the family, is often the ﬁrst step in the emotional recovery of the family. Tis is followed by crafting solutions to problems, resolving problems by implementing solutions, and celebrating the successes of positively resolving problems. Trough this process, family members begin to reestablish mastery over their environment and bring back into equilibrium the role of each of the family members. By routinely repeating this process through-out the various stages of recovery, the family members will become closer as aunit and individually more autonomous, thus helping all members of the family reestablish their identity and proceed with their normal developmental roles.In working with families of diverse backgrounds, outreach workers must be sensitive to language diﬀerences and cultural needs. Children are often thrust into the role of interpreter if their parents and relatives are not ﬂuent in English. This responsibility may require skills beyond the child’s current stage of development and be too stressful for the child. The outreach worker can relieve the child of this responsibility by seeking out adult interpreters for the family.