POSTED September 20, 2018
4 ways to protect a child’s mental health during a crisis
Learn how we make children feel safe during difficult times in vulnerable communities
By María Teresa Cardoza, sponsorship manager and child-protection officer, Nicaragua
Children are strong. I’m often amazed how quickly they can overcome difficult situations and adapt to new ones. It’s that resilience, a key life skill, that plays an important role in their success.
Since children are constantly developing, they learn quickly, absorbing influences and social dynamics — both positive and negative. So, it’s very important for adults and guardians around them to protect their mental health during a crisis or difficult times.
Whether they’re confronted with a natural disaster, the death of a family member or saying goodbye to a friend, there are many life events that completely change their environment. Children need protection, care and support to avoid long-term consequences to their mental health when they, or the entire family, face a crisis.
Below are tips for protecting a child’s mental health during difficult times:
1. Take a deep breath and stay calm
If the crisis is also affecting your mental health, identify how you’re feeling and stay calm. Remember children are very good at perceiving their environment, and they can feel your fear, stress or anxiety. You can make them feel protected by leaning down, hugging them and telling them they’re safe and loved.
2. Answer their questions
Children are curious; they want to know everything. Tell them the truth in a soft and caring manner, using language they understand. Give necessary information that’s age-appropriate. Tell them their situation will get better with time.
3. Play with them
Playing games, and having a recreation space, is vital for children, especially if the family is going through a crisis. Role-play with dolls or teddy bears; drawing and colouring are also good ways for children to express themselves and release stress. Ask them to explain their drawing to get a good understanding of how they’re feeling.
4. Listen to and respect them
Children and youth have the right and need to express their feelings and opinions about issues affecting them. Give them space to express themselves. Listen to them seriously and with respect. They also need to communicate with their peers. Encourage teens to gather with friends and create a recreation space. These spaces are crucial for young people during difficult times or crisis.
At Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), we support children and their families through different stages of their development, especially during unexpected events that can affect the quality of a child’s life.
We join with our partners to protect a child’s mental health during emergencies by creating safe spaces for children and youth to play with their friends, express themselves, learn their rights and enjoy their favourite activities, such as dancing, music, painting, theatre, sports and more.
To learn more about how you can support our work with children, visit our gift catalogue.
Photo by Juris Kornets
ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):
Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.