Supporting Children after the Earthquake

By: Relationships Aotearoa  05-Apr-2012
Keywords: Earthquake

Children may be stressed and fearful following the earthquake. The ways they react can be different to the ways adults respond. It will also vary according to their age. Common reactions include:

·         Being fearful, clingy, lots of tears

·         Acting out, misbehaving, tantrums

·         A return to younger behaviour (thumbsucking, bedwetting etc)

·         Developing physical aches and pains

·         Changes in eating and sleeping behaviour

·         Withdrawing or showing a lack of response

·         Nightmares

·         Difficulty handling emotions

·         Increased fears about other’s safety

·         Lots of play and storytelling about earthquakes

These are all normal reactions to an abnormal situation and will ease over time.

There are a number of things parents and other adults can do to support children:

·         Limit exposure to media/news of the earthquake damage

·         Re-establish and maintain as many normal routines as possible

·         Comfort them with lots of hugs, cuddles and reassurance

·         Provide healthy meals at normal times

·         Encourage physical activity during the day- it will help relieve stress.

·         Help them settle at night with calming routines and reassure them if they wake in the night (a nice bedtime story, nightlights, breathing exercises, special toys).

·         Answer questions honestly, and in terms appropriate to their age.

·         If your child is acting out, continue to be clear and consistent about unacceptable behaviour (your consistency will be reassuring). Praise and encourage your child’s positive behaviour.

·         Watch for children who have gone quiet, it may be a sign they need more help coping

To help calm and relax children, try this breathing exercise with them:

1        Lie down with a soft toy on your tummy.

2        Slowly take a big breath in through your nose so the toy on your tummy goes up.

3        Let it out slowly through your mouth so the toy goes down.

      (Try counting slowly backwards from 5 with the child for each breath in and out.)

4        Repeat this five times.

Your confidence in being able to cope will help them feel safe

Remember to look after yourself so you can be strong enough to care for the children. If you are feeling overwhelmed or just want some additional support – reach out to friends, family and community agencies.

Relationships Aotearoa Whakawhanaungatanga has trained counsellors available to help you and your family cope with the emotional impact of the earthquake. 

Call 03 366 8804 or 0800 RELATE (0800 735 283) for telephone support or to make an appointment.

Keywords: Earthquake

Contact Relationships Aotearoa


Print this page

Other products and services from Relationships Aotearoa


Our Services

This is where you can find out about supervision for counsellors, professional support for people in demanding workplace roles, and training or facilitation support for your workplace. This section describes some of the different types of counselling we offer (eg personal counselling, couple counselling, workplace counselling). This includes our Parenting though Separation courses and our Relating Well in New Zealand programme for new migrants.


Counselling support - Christchurch earthquake

Reassurance that feeling worried and stressed is to be expected in these circumstances. Free counselling support is available for people affected by the earthquakes. The focus is on helping people cope with what’s happening now. Ring Relationships Aotearoa on 03 741 9201 or 0800 RELATE. It doesn’t have to stop you dealing with the situation. Ways to cope with stress and feel less irritable. If you want some practical counselling support.


Coping with the Earthquake

Relationship Services Whakawhanaungatanga has trained counsellors available to help you and your family cope with the emotional impact of the earthquake. Along with all the practical details that need to be dealt with following the earthquake. Following a disaster of this magnitude it is normal to have a range of responses. Call 03 366 8804 or 0800 RELATE for telephone support or to make an appointment.


Taking care of your relationship after the quake

Taking good care of yourself – regular meals, some physical exercise and a bit of rest will help you to manage stress, worry, fear, anger and grief. Your relationship feels more precious and more vulnerable in the wake of so much loss. How do you take care of your relationship, so that it can take care of you. Pool your ideas about what possibilities the future might hold. The earthquake puts a lot of things into perspective.