The Diocese of Des Moines
Counselors offer tips for easing children's fears about disasters/crisis
March 24, 2011
Written By: Trish Radke

The current crisis in Japan and other disasters throughout the world affect the anxiety levels of adults and children alike. As a parent, I have been wondering (as I am sure many of you have) if my children are taking all of this in and how it may be affecting their behavior. So, I went to our professional counseling staff to get tips on who to ease children's fears about disaster and crisis.


Here is what they had to say:


Being mindful of how you as a parent react to news of crisis and disaster, and first managing your own emotions, is key in helping your children work through their fears.


“How parents react and cope in the situation directly effects how children react,” says Sharon Bandstra, L.I.S.W., therapist with Catholic Charities.  Bandstra says that being aware of your own fears and how you project them onto those around you is essential in helping children deal with their fears.

Other tips that may help reduce anxiety and fears related to news of crisis and disasters include:
  • First, consider how you are managing yourself. Children pick up on cues from parents, so if you can stay calm, it is easier for your children to stay calm.
  • Preparation is key. Have a plan of action for disasters that would directly affect your family and talk to your children about it. Make sure your plan is detailed and includes scenarios like, if there is a fire in the house meet in the neighbor’s front yard by the large oak tree.
  • Separate facts from fears. Children tend to worry about worse case scenarios and facts can help ease some of those unrealistic fears. They may not need all of the details, but it is essential to help them sort out the facts.
  • Keep to your schedule. If the disaster/crisis has directly affected your family you may need to create a new schedule or pattern. Predictably helps ease anxiety in children and adults, so sticking to a routine is essential.
And finally, therapists say that it is important to understand that some people may be more sensitive to external events, and may need more time to adjust and take in the information. Be aware and attentive to the specific way your child handles anxiety.
About Catholic Charities Professional Counseling
For more than 50 years, the Counseling Program at Catholic Charities has provided supportive relationships in a clinical setting to individuals and families of all faiths. Licensed therapists, including a bilingual therapist, provide quality, professional counseling services focusing on the management of anxiety in a variety of life situations including job loss, divorce, parenting, anger management, grief and loss, depression, stress, marriage, drug and alcohol abuse, among many others.
Appointments are available in downtown Des Moines, Ankeny, Waukee, Perry and Council Bluffs.  Most major insurance is accepted and clients without insurance can utilize a sliding scale fee structure that meets each client’s needs and is based on income and family size and ranges between $10-$125. Contact the Des Moines office at 515-237-5045 and the Council Bluffs office at 712-328-3086. Save to


I can't even begin to imagine what the families in Japan went through. When my family and I first found out what happened. My children experienced their own anxiety levels. Asking a thousand questions.

Will that happen to us?
Did the people die?
Why did that happen?

I truly hope the children and their families recover from this. Natural disaster can give anyone anxiety.
Posted By: anxiety in children - 8/30/2011 8:36 PM