Disaster Resource Center

Last updated June 2018


Disaster Resource CenterA disaster is frightening to children and adults, alike. It is important to explain the event in words children can understand.  Adults should also acknowledge the frightening parts of the disaster when talking with a child about it. Minimizing the danger will not end a child's concerns. Several factors affect a child's response to a disaster.

The way children see and understand their parents' responses are very important. Children are aware of their parents' worries most of the time, but they are particularly sensitive during a crisis. Parents should admit their concerns to their children, and also stress their abilities to cope with the disaster.

To learn more, click on these AACAP Facts for Families fact sheets, below. Each fact sheet was written by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Choose a topic:

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is a Disaster?
  2. What is Disaster Exposure?
  3. How Can I Help My Child After a Disaster?
  4. What Should I Tell My Child About the Disaster?
  5. How Do I Know if My Child Needs Help From a Mental Health Professional?
  6. What Symptoms Should I Look Out For?
  7. What is PTSD?
  8. If We’ve Been Through a Disaster, Will My Child Get PTSD?

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Clinical Resources

Disaster Resource Center

Considered resources for experts, mental health professional and physicians, AACAP’s Practice Parameters were developed to guide clinical decision making. They show the best treatments and the range of treatment options available to families living with childhood and adolescent mental illness.

Click here to read AACAP’s Practice Parameter on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Click here to read AACAP's Practice Parameter on Disaster Preparedness.

Click here to read IACAPAP chapter on acute and chronic reactions to trauma in children.

Disasters: Why and How Mental Health Professionals and the Media Should Work Together
By Paramjit Joshi, M.D.

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Clinical Impressions

Review an AACAP member’s experience with Katrina in his PowerPoint slide presentation, “Katrina: Lesson’s Learned.” (July, 2008) 

Prepared for March 31, 2006 Grand Rounds for the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Department of Psychiatry

Review an AACAP member's PowerPoint slide presentation, "Disaster and Trauma During Childhood: The Role of Clinicians"
Prepared by Stephen J. Cozza, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University

Review an AACAP member's PowerPoint slide presentation, "Compassion Fatigue"
Prepared by Syed Arshad Husain, M.D., Professor and Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Wayne Anderson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Read AACAP members impressions on working with communities affected by disaster in their articles first printed in the AACAP News.

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Video Clips

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AACAP's publications, Your Child and Your Adolescent, offer accessible, comprehensive information about the emotional development and behavior of children from infancy through the teenage years. 

I Miss You: A First Look at Death
Pat Thomas

After Charlotte’s Mom Died
Cornelia Spellman

A Terrible Thing Happened
Margaret M. Holmes

Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile: A Story About Coping with the Loss of a Parent
Julie Kaplow and Donna Pincus

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
Judith Viorst

Tell Me, Papa: A family book for children’s questions about death and funerals
Joy and Marv Johnson

For more bibliotherapy resources, visit Living with Mental Illness: Books, Stories and Memoirs.

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Getting Help

Disaster Resource CenterChild and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder
Not all children who have experienced a disaster will need treatment. However, treatment can help prevent or minimize trauma. To obtain help, parents should try to find a mental health professional who has advanced training and experience with evaluating and treating children, adolescents, and families. It is important to find a comfortable match between your child, your family, and the mental health professional.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and, treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and behavior that affect children, adolescents, and their families. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children, adolescents, and their families.

Click here to find a child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.

Bear in mind that because of the extensive training required, there is a nationwide shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists. To learn more about other mental health professionals and places where families can find help, read Where to Find Help For Your Child.

The National Center for PTSD

SAMHSA Trauma-Informed Approach and Trauma-Specific Interventions

SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center

SESAME - Let’s Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies

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Research and Training

The following articles were printed in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Psychological therapies for children and adolescents exposed to trauma
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jul; 50(7):645-58. Epub 2011 Apr 29.
Gillies D, Maiocchi L, Bhandari AP, Taylor F, Gray C, O'Brien L.

Posttraumatic stress disorder in infants and young children exposed to war-related trauma
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, Vol. 55, Issue 10, S63, October 2016
Feldman R, Vengrober A.

My Family and Me and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Applications of Evidence-Based Models to the Treatment of Military and Civilian Families with Young Children
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 55, Issue 10, S63, October 2016.
Sylvia Turner, Daniel S. Schechter, Stephen J. Cozza

Trauma Exposure and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the Lives of Adolescents
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 52 Issue 8, p780-783, August 2013
Julian D. Ford

Systematic Review of Outcomes in the Treatment of Childhood and Adolescent Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol.55, Issue 10, S242, October 2016
Alexander Demand, Keely Wheeler, Matt Vassar

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Related Topics

Facts for Families
Providing up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers, and their families. These fact sheets are relevant to disaster and trauma.

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Other Resources

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) develops mental health resources and interventions for professionals, traumatized children, and their families. The NCTSN offers Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide, a tool developed to assist children, adolescents, adults, and families in the aftermath of a disaster.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the medical membership organization which represents pediatricians, offers disaster information for families and clinicians.

The American Red Cross provides disaster services training for clinicians.

Talking to Children about Natural Disasters by David Fassler, M.D.

Helping Children Cope After a Natural Disaster by Christopher Petersen, M.D., and Susan Rzucidlo, M.S.N., R.N.poli

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