May 7, 2009
For immediate release
As one might expect, natural disasters can be traumatic for children and youth. Experiencing a dangerous and destructive wildfire such as the current Jesusita Fire can be frightening for children and adults, and the devastation to the familiar environment (i.e., home and community) can be long-lasting and distressing. Often an entire community is impacted, further undermining a child’s sense of security and normalcy. Wildfires present a variety of unique issues and coping challenges, including the need to relocate when home and/or community have been destroyed, the role of the family in lessening or exacerbating the trauma, emotional reactions, and coping techniques. Children look to the significant adults in their lives for guidance on how to manage their reactions after the immediate threat is over.
Dr. Shane Jimerson of the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School emphasizes that “Parents, teachers, and other adults can help children and youth cope in the aftermath of a wildfire by remaining calm and reassuring children that they will be all right. Immediate response efforts should emphasize teaching effective coping strategies, fostering supportive relationships, and helping children understand their reactions.”
Further details regarding issues and challenges associated with wildfires, possible reactions of children and youth to wildfires, specific information for schools immediately following a wildfire, and helping children adjust to relocation after a wildfire are available in the resource “Helping Children After a Wildfire: Tips for Parents and Teachers” (Jimerson, Brock, & Cowan, 2003) [five-page pdf].
[Shane Jimerson is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
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