Supporting kids after earthquakes and other scary events

Tips for helping children cope

Earthquakes and other scary or surprising events are frightening for everyone involved, and especially for children who may not understand what’s happened. Long after they are over, scary experiences like earthquakes can continue to affect children’s emotions, thoughts and behaviour. 

Supporting our kids and whānau

Parents, kids will cue off you — so if you’re okay (see our tips here), they’ll be okay too...

  • Be mindful how much ‘worry’ you’re displaying, just be as cool as you can!
  • Keep them away from the media.
  • Answer their questions pretty matter of factly and in very ‘general’ terms. Drama it down. You don’t have to get the answers exactly right here. Ensure you talk too about the police and how they did a really good job of keeping us safe. Keep the reassurance low key too — over-reassuring can make us think we need to be worrying more than we are!
  • Let them talk about it, but don’t let it ‘take over’ - use distraction to keep their mind off it - we’ve got the board games out!
  • If your children (or you!) are a bit panicky, take those long deep breaths or see our parenting guide on worry. In the words of our good friends at The Worry Bug: "Reassure them that the world hasn't changed, this is an unusual situation and things will go back to normal soon. When you listen you don't need to solve, you just need to listen and be empathic. Feelings usually retreat after a short while if they are listened to and acknowledged."

For parents of teens...

  • Try and keep them off or away from the social media as much as you can, but it’s okay if they need to have it on tap right now - it’s a great way for them to be checking in with friends and supporting each other.
  • Let them know there’s a lot of hype out there.
  • Say that you’re sticking with credible sources of information as they report only the things released by the police and people actually ‘in the know’. If they are really affected by this ‘hype’ tell them it’s time to put the phone down or away. Keep the reassurance low key too.
  • Stick to your normal routines as much as you can.

You've got this!

Other resources

Below are some more resources and practical tips to help you look after yourself and those around you.

To help parents support their children after earthquakes and other shocks, SKIP have created these two handy resources.

The Worry Bug is a great resource – your tamariki may have already received the book from their school. We recommend watching the film on The Worry Bug website.

Earthquakes and other scary events

Help is out there

We all need a bit of support from time-to-time, and if you or someone you know is struggling, there is free help available. Free call or text 1737 any time, 24 hours a day. You can also call Lifeline on 0800 543354 or text HELP to 4357.

We know too that many organisations are providing support to families where anxiety is present – the Methodist Mission, STAND, your local Plunket or public health nurse or family doctor will all be able to help or point you in the right direction.

Find out more on how to help kids manage worries here.

More advice from Rob Gordon