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Disaster Relief
How to help your kids make sense in the face of the senseless tragedy in Haiti
Click to read the article

Read Further about "After Disaster" on this page

For many of us, learning to fight fairly when emotionally upset is a challenging experience that most people learn by trial and error and through honest communication which often follows after the initial blowup.

Relationships Stressing You Out?
Your boyfriend just dumped you. You hear his half-baked excuses absolving you for the break-up -- "It's not you, it's me." You smile coolly, trying to hide that wave of panic rising from the depths of your belly . . .
  There's all sorts of ways you can deal with these kinds of stress. Read Heather's Article On This Topic . . . Read The Article

Here are some of the focus words Harvard University's Herbert Benson suggests to elicit the relaxation response in people of different faiths and cultures:
Protestant or Catholic: Our Father who art in Heaven, or The Lord is my shepherd
Catholic: Hail Mary, full of grace or Jesus Christ, have mercy on me
Jewish: Sh'ma Yisroel or Shalom. Also Echod or the Lord is my shepherd
Islamic: Insha'allah
Hindu: Om
Secular/Universal: One or ocean or love. Also peace, or calm, or relax
Select or think of an appropriate word or phrase for you personally and repeat it to yourself. As you repeat it, passively disregard the everyday thoughts that pass through your mind.
Following is the technique that Bensen uses himself and teaches others:
Choose a focus word or phrase rooted in your belief system
Sit quietly in a comfortable position
Close your eyes
Relax your muscles
Breathe slowly and naturally, silently repeating your focus word or phrase
Don't worry about how well you're doing. When other thoughts pass through, let them go and continue to repeat your focus phrase to yourself
Continue for 10 to 20 minutes
At the end of that time, sit quietly for a moment, slowly letting other thoughts return. Then open your eyes and get up slowly
Practise this technique once or twice a day

Steps You Can Take to Cope in Stressful Situations
When disasters such as earthquakes strike - families that have suffered loss have experienced the following;
Increased irritability, arguments and family discord, including domestic violence.
Clinging, acting out and regressive behavior by children.
Illness and psychosomatic problems for adults and children.
Decreased intimacy.
Increased alcohol consumption and/or substance abuse.
Survivor's guilt.
What You Can Do For Familiy Members;
Listen and empathize. A sympathetic listener is important.
Spend time with the traumatized person. There is no substitute for personal presence.
Offer assistance and sympathy. Voiced support is critical.
Re-assure children, the elderly and even adults: they are safe.
Don't tell traumatized people that they are "lucky it wasn't worse". Such statements do not console traumatized people. Tell them, instead that you're sorry such an event has occurred, and that you want to understand and assist them.
Respect a family member's need for privacy and private grief.
What You Can Do For Yourself;
Physical exercise can help relieve stress. Strenuous exercise alternated with relaxation will help alleviate physical reactions.
Remember that you're experiencing normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
Talk to people. Talk is healing medicine.
Accept support -- from loved ones, friends and neighbors. People do care.
Give yourself permission to feel rotten. You're suffering from loss. And, it's all right to grieve for the loss of material things. You wouldn't have obtained them or kept them around if they didn't have some meaning to you.
When you're feeling rotten, remember that those around you are also under stress.
Don't make any big life changes immediately. During periods of extreme stress, we all tend to make misjudgments.
Eat well-balanced, regular meals & get rest.
Be kind to yourself.
If you feel the need for professional help go online to www.therapistlocator.net or call the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy at 1-800-267-2638 or visit their web-site at www.oamft.on.ca
A catastrophe such as an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, fire or flood is frightening to children and adults alike. It is important to acknowledge the frightening parts of the disaster when talking with a child about it. Falsely minimizing the danger will not end a child's concerns. Several factors affect a child's response to disaster.

The way children see and understand their parents' response is very important to them. Children are aware of their parents' worries most of the time but they are particularly sensitive during a crisis. Parents should admit their concerns to their children, and also stress their abilities to cope with the situation.

A child's reaction also depends on how much destruction he or she sees during and after the disaster. If a friend or family member has been killed or seriously injured, or if the child's school or home has been severely damaged, there is a greater chance that the child will experience difficulties.

A child's age affects how the child will respond to the disaster. For example, six-year-olds may show their concerns about a catastrophe by refusing to attend school, whereas adolescents may minimize their concerns but argue more with parents and show a decline in school performance. It is important to explain the event in words the child can understand.

Following a disaster, people may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is psychological damage that can result from experiencing, witnessing or participating in an overwhelmingly traumatic (frightening) event.

Children with this disorder have repeated episodes in which they re-experience the traumatic event. Children often relive the trauma through repetitive play. In young children, distressing dreams of the traumatic event may change into nightmares of monsters, of rescuing others or of threats to self or others.

PTSD rarely appears during the trauma itself. Though its symptoms can occur soon after the event, the disorder often surfaces several months or even years later.

Parents should be alert to these changes: Refusal to return to school and "clinging" behavior, shadowing the mother or father around the house; Persistent fears related to the catastrophe (such as fears about being permanently separated from parents); Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting, persisting more than several days after the event; Loss of concentration and irritability; Behavior problems - for example, misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not typical for the child; Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, dizziness) for which a physical cause cannot be found; Withdrawal from family and friends, listlessness, decreased activity, preoccupation with the events of the disaster.

Professional advice or treatment for children affected by a disaster Especially those who have witnessed destruction, injury or death -- can help prevent or minimize PTSD. Parents who are concerned about their children can ask their pediatrician or family doctor to refer them to a registered marriage and family therapist or other mental health professional. To find a registered marriage and family therapist in your area, visit www.therapistlocator.net or call the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family therapy at 1-800-267-2638 or visit www.oamft.on.ca

For additional resources, visit www.aamft.org/resourses/Trauma
Heather McKechnie    MSW, RSW
Registered Marriage and Family Therapist
Certified Hypnotherapist
Member of the Ontario Association for Marriage & Family Therapy
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