If you are asked to talk to or assist children who are victims of natural or man-made disasters, be careful with what you say. Your tone or manner when helping a survivor can either help the child feel better or contribute to his feeling worse than he does already.
Here are guidelines from Knowledge Channel’s module on psychological first aid (PFA) focusing on how to treat children after a disaster.
• PFA does not force people to share their stories. Do not force survivors to talk of their personal experience if they do not want to. Respect their desire for silence and privacy.
• Give simple reassurances that everything will be okay or say “At least you survived.”
• Make promises that may not be kept.
• Give your opinion or criticize insufficient or lacking basic services to survivors.
• Promote safety. Give the basic needs of the survivor and where and how to simply get more provisions.
• Promote calm. If in the mood to talk, listen attentively to the story of the survivor in a friendly and compassionate manner. There is no right or wrong in his feelings so just listen.
• Promote connectedness. Help them talk to other members of their families and if possible bring them together.
• Promote self-efficacy or selfhelp. Encourage survivors to help themselves.
• Promote hope. Give them the chance to start again with services that can help them.
PFA has three core actions:
Look. Make a survivor feel that he is saved and that you are there to provide his basic needs like food and clothes.
Listen. Stabilize the survivor and his surroundings. Gather information and support his efforts to cope with his situation.
Link. Provide practical assistance and connect or link him up to services and social support.
The PFA video episodes made in partnership with ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc. and the Psychological Association of the Philippines and hosted by Atom Araullo were produced in 2015 as one of the contents of Knowledge Channel’s teacher-training Learning Effectively through Enhanced and Evidence- based Pedagogies or LEEP.
They aim to guide teachers and principals in addressing the psychological first needs of children in calamity- and disaster-stricken areas and for a more effective instruction.
PFA episodes are uploaded online and can be exclusively viewed through kchonline.ph. (Story by: Dulce Festin Baybay and Niña de Sagun)