K-12 Schools

Schools and Disaster Recovery: An Overview Image - schools

Disaster Recovery: An Overview

At other places on this website, there are links provided with information regarding posttraumatic stress, coping, and resiliency in reference to the general public. However, children and adolescents are a very specific population to consider. While reassuring children and adolescents following disasters is one of the first steps for all adults, teachers, and administrators, it’s especially important to remember that schools have unique roles in helping children after disaster and in facilitating mental health needs of children in academic settings. Regardless of their personal or immediate experience of the disaster, all children will be affected in some way, and the guidance that teachers and education professionals provide can make the difference between a child’s being overwhelmed and being resilient.

Here are some tips to keep in mind in order to best accompany children in recovery from disasters:

Focus on your personal self-care so that you may be most helpful to those with whom you provide support and care. If you do not care for yourself, remember that you cannot properly care for others.

Schools can play an important central stabilizing role during and following disasters, and teachers and administrators can facilitate a return to mental health on the part of students and their families. Find ways to emphasize a return to stability. Look for ways to remind students that as time goes by, they are continuing on their way to recovery.

Promote resiliency through the classroom setting. The teacher-student relationship and the school setting can be an important component of children’s and adolescents’ recovery.

Incorporate healing activities into the classroom in addition to other lessons and curriculum. Anchoring academic lessons in an external context can be especially helpful for students following disaster.

Prepare for long-term reactions that are normal, such as the continued need to discuss a disaster. But you should also be alert for more serious long-term reactions. Some of these may include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.

Some of this material is modified and adapted from this pdf.

Web Links

Sesame Street – Handling Emergencies Web Site and resources

Sesame Street – Support after an Emergency Toolkit

This 3-page article provided by SAMHSA titled Tips for Supporting Children During Times of War: A Guide for Teachers explores how to talk to children about war and how to help children access their coping abilities.

A fact sheet on the impact of terrorism and disasters on children from the American Psychological Association.

A guide from the American Psychological Association for adults and teachers on guidelines to help children build resilience following a disaster, trauma and other threats.

The National Institute for Mental Health offers resources regarding traumatic events and children and adolescents.

The National Association of School Psychologists offers school safety and crisis resources, including information on crisis teams in schools.

The Center for Health and Healthcare in Schools offers various mental health resources for teachers, parents, and students.

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