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As every parent knows, kids can be tough. Whether you’re fighting over eating broccoli or the hour of their bedtime, kids can be stubborn and feisty. But as we also know, children are also sensitive and vulnerable. And since disasters are scary to everyone (not just kids), the young ones will need us to maintain our composure and they will need our help too. Here are just a few ways that kids can respond in emergencies and how you can help them through a crisis.

Expect Their Response

It’s important to be prepared for the wide range of responses from kids in a disaster. These are just a few of the responses you might expect from kids in a crisis.

—Separation anxiety: kids are clingy and won’t leave your side

—Disturbed sleep patterns

—Regression to earlier behaviors: anything from bed wetting to baby talk

—Crying, aggression and other outbursts

—Complaints of headaches, stomach aches and other physical pains

Be Ready To Help

We all want to help children in need, though it can be very challenging to do it right. Here are some ways you can help, even if you’re not a child psychologist.

—Talk about what happened with your child. Try to get them to open up so that you can understand what they are thinking and how they are processing the events they have witnessed.

—Don’t push them. Telling a child to stop crying or to “toughen up” is not productive. It’s more important to speak softly and quietly to them, and let them feel whatever they are feeling.

—Make sure the children have structure and routine. Even during and after a crisis, children benefit from a regular schedule. Even if schools haven’t resumed, give them some “school work” to do, and throw in some chores as well. They may really benefit from being involved in productive activity.

—Nurture them. Regression to an “earlier stage” is a common reaction from kids in tough situations. They may suck their thumb, speak in a baby-ish manner, and return to behaviors that they have outgrown. This is often a sign that they need more comforting and reassurance.

—Control your own reactions. Children often mimic their parents and elders. When kids see their role models freak out, they follow suit. Keep it together!

Separate fact from imagination. Kids have strong imaginations. It can help them to carefully explain the crisis in terms they can understand. Since kids have trouble differentiating realistic fears from imagined ones, your explanation can help.

Have you considered how your kids will react in a crisis? Please leave us a comment.