Staying Calm During (and After) an Earthquake

A father and son have a heart to heart conversation.
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Natural disasters like earthquakes, strike with little warning. Knowing if earthquakes are likely to happen in your community — and having your family well prepared — can help you act quickly, stay calm and cope with the stress if and when you’re faced with this event.

Be Prepared to Feel Empowered

Let your loved ones know what to expect during an earthquake. Knowing what to do and practicing ahead of time can help reduce fear and anxiety, especially in younger children. When anxiety is high, here are some tips for staying calm:

  • Have family activities stashed in your designated safe places to help pass the time and focus your mind on something other than the earthquake. While it won’t always be possible to color, read or play games as a natural disaster happens, these activities will be available during the times you need a welcomed distraction.
  • Practice “drop, cover and hold on” in each safe zone several times each year: Drop to hands and knees, cover your head and neck with your arms and hold on to steady furniture until earthquake is over. Feeling knowledgeable with what to do can bring a sense of calm when the time comes to put what you’ve practiced in action. It will also help make these safety measures feel a little less awkward — and therefore less scary — to the kids.
  • Reassure your children that if an earthquake happens when they’re away from you — while they’re at school, at a sporting event or at a friend’s house — that you’ll contact them as soon as it’s safe. Remind them (and all your loved ones for that matter) to take comfort in knowing God is with them even when you can’t be.
  • Stay tuned to the NOAA broadcast. Having reliable, up-to-date information can be reassuring and help you to remain calm.
  • Use deep breathing exercises and stay mindful to help maintain or regain mental focus and slow your breathing (which is usually short, rapid and shallow due to the fight-or-flight response). A calm mind allows you to make thoughtful choices rather than simply being reactive to the situation.
  • Prepare your family by having all of your disaster kit supplies ready to go.
  • If you or a family member has special needs, register with your local special needs registry.

Know How to Cope After the Earthquake

Since natural disasters tend to happen without much warning, planning ahead is critical to making sure your family is ready to act quickly for the best outcome possible. While it’s fairly simple to build an emergency survival/evacuation kit and to formulate an earthquake readiness plan, knowing how to cope mentally and emotionally once an earthquake happens in reality is much harder.

Though you can’t plan for how you or your loved ones will react during such a traumatic event, you can have a few weapons in your coping arsenal to help you and your family:

Comfort the Children

While disasters such as earthquakes can make anyone feel scared, confused and insecure, they tend to hit children the hardest. It’s vital you recognize your children’s reactions early, and that you help them cope with their emotions:

  • Answer their questions: Give age-appropriate details of what is going on. Ask them about their concerns and clarify any misunderstanding of the situation you find yourselves in.
  • Be calm: Children look to you for clues on how to behave, especially in unknown situations. By remaining calm and reassuring yourself, you can help your children cope more successfully. Let them know you are following the plan just like you practiced.
  • Get support: After the earthquake is over, your children may need continued emotional support to cope. Friends, family, community outreaches or faith-based organizations are all excellent sources of support. Don’t be afraid to reach out for yourself or your child.
  • Open a dialogue: Listen to what they are saying, acknowledge their feelings and ask them to tell you what they are feeling. Let them know their feelings are validated. Don’t brush their concerns aside even if they seem silly to you.
  • Shut off media: News coverage on TV, radio or on social media creates an atmosphere of fear, confusion and anxiety. Media constantly replays scenes of natural disasters in loops and younger children can be misled into thinking the event is still occurring even when it is over.

Understand If Your Children Are at Risk

The stress doesn’t always end when the earthquake and aftershocks have passed. Secondary effects of a natural disaster can have lingering effects on children. Your children may be at greater risk for long-term emotional and psychological distress if they:

  • Are living with ongoing stressors such as loss of home and belongings, loss of place of worship, temporary housing situations, loss of access to friends or parents becoming unemployed
  • Experienced grief, loss or injury such as exposure to serious injury or death of a loved one or friends
  • Had direct exposure to the earthquake such as being injured or seeing others injured

Be Patient With Your Loved Ones

It’s good to remember that no matter how frightening earthquakes may be, the things in your home are just that – things. They can be replaced. Family members cannot. Take comfort that you’re experiencing this together.

It’s also important to acknowledge that we all handle adversities in our own unique way. While some are emotionally strong, others may be overwhelmed or feel ill equipped to deal with the stresses they’re suddenly facing. God will help you find the extra dose of patience you need to show each family member more grace during such a natural disaster. And together, you can walk through the experience and lean on one another for emotional and spiritual support.

Focus on Your Whole Health

Earthquakes can literally turn your world upside down without warning, filling you with doubt, confusion and even anger. If you need someone to talk to who can help you cope emotionally in the aftermath, reach out to one of our providers. Our team can help support you in body, mind and spirit as you heal.

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