5/23/2013 7:37:00 PM PCYS warns disaster coverage can traumatize children
By Michelle Charles
Payne County Youth Services (PCYS) is reminding parents to keep an eye on their children and be mindful of the impact constant coverage of natural disasters and other traumatic incidents can have on them.
As rescue and recovery efforts continue in the Central Oklahoma communities damaged by tornadoes on May 19 and 20, 24 hour television coverage of the devastation remains the norm even if the programming alternates between local and national broadcasts.
PCYS issued a reminder on Tuesday for parents to consider limiting their children's and their own exposure to the constant coverage for the sake of their mental health.
Children, teens and even adults can suffer from vicarious trauma after too much exposure to media coverage of traumatic events.
"Natural disasters can trigger strong reactions in children and youth even if that person is not directly affected," a PCYS statement said.
Parents are advised to make a note of behavioral changes or out-of-character emotions but to be patient if their children have trouble expressing their feelings.
"Most of us as adults have struggled the past few days to find the words to express our feelings, so it makes sense it would be difficult for our children," according to PCYS.
The organization said parents should stay close and be calm and reassuring. They also shouldn't hesitate to get professional help if needed.
Other organizations are also reaching out to people, especially children, who may be struggling with their feelings.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial is working with an expert on child grief, trauma and disaster mental health as it conducts its outreach.
As part of that effort, it has compiled a list of links to online publications from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
The fact sheets for parents, teachers, children and teens include:
Tornado response and recovery for teens and children Helping children heal after the tornado Questions to ask children about the tornado Tips for parents on media coverage Traumatic grief fact sheet for parents Psychological first aid fact sheets for parents and teachers
They can be found at www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org under the link "Talking to our Children About the Tornado Devastation."
For help that's closer to home, Payne County Youth Services provides free counseling and case management to youth and their families.
More information is available at 405)377-3380 or www.pcys.org.