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For Release: April 20, 2012 – Larry Weatherford, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

Children May Have Difficulty Coping With Storm and Tornadoes Aftermath

The disruption and chaos following severe storms and tornadoes may leave children vulnerable, according to child guidance professionals at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

“Children who experience a traumatic event before they are 11 years old are three times more likely to develop psychological symptoms than those who experience their first trauma later in life,” said Beth Martin, chief of the Child Guidance Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.  “Most children can cope successfully with a traumatic event if parents, family, friends and other adults provide support and reassurance. Help should start as soon as possible after the event.”

State health officials are encouraging parents to contact their local county health department for help from behavioral health specialists if they are concerned about their child.

A violent disaster, whether natural or man-made, may leave devastation of property, and even life. Such tragedies also leave victims with a damaged sense of safety and well-being, and varying degrees of emotional trauma.

Children are especially vulnerable because they do not have the life experience, coping skills or understanding that the disruption is time limited and that their world will return to normal. Their emotions and fears may be magnified, and their sense of order and security seriously disrupted.

“Even if a child does not directly experience a disaster, the exposure to it may be the first sign that the world is not always a safe and orderly place,” said Martin. “There may be signs of distress. Children need to be reassured that they will be taken care of.”

For more storm recovery information, visit the Coping After The Storm section of the OSDH website at www.health.ok.gov

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