The following resources offer guidance to families and schools for offering support following a natural disaster. They include a number of resources available in Spanish and other languages.
We will add more resources as they become available. We also highly recommend our new article, Using a Strengths-Based Approach with ELs: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress.
Photo credit: Almond Elementary School Community is making a donation for wildfire's victims at Sonoma and Napa counties in North California. (2017)
Updated Resources for Recent Events
West Coast Wildfires
- Guidance for Staying Safe: Wildfires & Smoke in Multiple Languages (Oregon Health Authority)
- What You Should Know About Wildfires: Bilingual Information (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Wildfire Safety (National Fire Protection Association)
- Wildfire Information (Ready.gov)
Managing the Impact of Disasters on Kids
Long-Term Impacts of Natural Disasters
- The serious and long-lasting impact of disaster on schoolchildren (The Washington Post)
- Children's Trauma Lasts Long After Disasters, Studies Show (Education Week)
Managing Distress About Events from Afar
- Natural Disasters (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Helping Children Cope after a Hurricane (American Psychological Association) | Spanish version
Tips for School PersonnelThese tips for educators have been adapted from the following sources:
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)
- American Psychological Association (APA)
Helping students cope
- Identify children and youth who are affected by the disaster and plan appropriate interventions on their behalf.
Interventions may include classroom discussions, individual counseling, small group counseling, or family therapy. From classroom discussions, and by maintaining close contact with teachers and parents, the school crisis response team can help determine which students need counseling services. (NASP)
- Ensure that a schoolwide referral service is in place.
Make sure that both students and parents who wish to make counseling referrals for themselves or for others are able to do so easily. (NASP)
- Provide time for students to discuss the disaster.
Depending on the situation, teachers may be able to guide this discussion in class, or students can meet with the school psychologist or other mental health professional for a group crisis intervention. Classroom discussions help children to make some sense of the disaster. They also encourage students to develop effective means of coping, discover that their classmates share similar questions, and develop peer support networks. Teachers may find helpful discussion topics and resources in It Happened Over There: Understanding and Empathy Through Children's Books from Reading Rockets. (NASP)
- Approach class discussions for students who are severely impacted with caution and sensitivity.
Discussions with students most affected by the earthquake should be overseen by mental health professionals rather than teachers. (NASP)
- Encourage students to take a news break.
Watching endless replays of footage from the disaster can make stress even greater. Although students will want to keep informed — especially if they have loved ones in the impacted areas — taking a break from watching the news can lessen their distress and anxiety. (APA)
- Encourage students to continue routines when possible.
It is helpful for students to maintain daily routines and schedules to give themselves a break from constantly thinking about the earthquake. (APA)
- Offer counseling support to school personnel affected by the disaster.
Teachers and staff should not be expected to conduct group discussions if they themselves are distressed and severely impacted by the earthquake. (NASP)
- Allow time for school personnel to discuss their feelings and share their experiences.
Members of your crisis team should have the opportunity to receive support from a trained mental health professional. Providing crisis intervention is emotionally draining and caregivers will need an opportunity to process their crisis response. (NASP)
Working with parents
- Provide time for families to meet together.
Parents are almost always the best source of support for children in difficult times, but they need to feel supported in order to help their children. Consider having translators or representatives from the local Haitian community present at parent discussions. (FEMA)
- Encourage parents to build and using social support systems.
These may include family, friends, community organizations and agencies, faith-based institutions, or other resources that work for that family. (FEMA)
- Ask parents for their help and ideas.
Parents familiar with the situation and students may have some of the best ideas on how the school can further help students and families affected by the earthquake.
- Build a community network.
As your school begins to build a support network for families affected by the earthquake, connect with other local organizations and businesses (particulary those affiliated with the Haitian community), such as social services, university faculty and students, and local businesses.
- Ask local community members for help.
Community members may be able to in a number of ways, from providing translation and counseling services to pitching in for schoolwide relief projects.
Planning long-term support
- Secure additional mental health support.
Although many caregivers are often willing to provide support during the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, long-term services may be lacking. School mental health professionals can help provide and coordinate mental health services, but it is important to connect with community resources as well in order to provide such long-term assistance. (NASP)
- Look for signs of student grief and post-traumatic stress.
These may include confusion, problems concentrating, anxiety, and depression. When a loved one has died in a way that has been traumatic, a child or teen is at risk for developing childhood traumatic grief. Learn to recognize the signs of this kind of grief, as well the ways it may affect learning and behavior. (NCTSN)
- Be sensitive to the unique challenges posed by this disaster.
Keep in mind that when there is no physical confirmation of the death, as may happen in an earthquake, the above reactions can be much more intense and long-lasting, and students may need counseling for extended periods of time. (NCTSN)
Crisis resources for school personnel
The following resources can provide other ideas to educators and school staff who have contact with children affected by the earthquake. While some of these publications are geared towards earthquake survivors, they provide a number of helpful tips and related information.
- The Effects of Trauma on Schools and Learning (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Responding to a School Crisis (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Coping with Disaster (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
- Promoting Adjustment and Helping Children Cope After Disaster and Crisis (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- How to Help Children Cope with Crisis (Save the Children)
- Natural Disasters: Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention (National Association of School Psychologists)
- Disaster Resource Center (American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry)
- Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association) | Spanish version
- Tips to Help Young Children Cope With Disasters (National Association for the Education of Young Children)
Multilingual Resources for Parents
After a natural disaster
- Disaster: Helping Children Cope (American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry) | Spanish version
- Talking to Children about Disasters (HealthyChildren.org) | Spanish version
- Information for Parents on Child Traumatic Stress (National Child Traumatic Stress Network) | Spanish version
Resources from the Red Cross
- Emotional Response and Recovery | See bottom of page for multilingual resources
- Taking Care of Your Emotional Health After a Disaster | Spanish version
- Helping Children Cope with Disaster | Spanish version
- Helping Children Cope with Trauma | Spanish version
Tips about news and media coverage
- Fred Rogers Talks About Tragic Events in the News (PBS Parents) | Spanish version
- How to Help Kids Feel Safe After a Tragedy (PBS Parents)
- Tips for Parents on Media Coverage (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
Talking about tough topics
- Guide: After a Loved One Dies (National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement) | Spanish & Japanese versions
- Talking About Tragic Events (One Tough Job) | Spanish version
- A Child in Grief (New York Life Foundation) | Spanish version
- Sesame Street Resources on Grief (Sesame Street Military Families) | Spanish version