Children in stress – Canterbury aftershocks

Diane Levy joins us to provide expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: [email protected]. Diane can’t answer individual queries, but we will endeavour to publish a representative sample on this page. Diane’s parenting books are available in bookshops.

Dear Diane

I know you’re probably getting a huge amount of mail along these lines at the moment, but I’m at the end of my tether with all the shakes we’ve been having here in Canterbury, and my children are in an even worse state.

oy little boy is six and cries every morning, saying he doesn’t want to go to school as he doesn’t want to be away from me when the quakes happen. My eight-year-old daughter simply refused to go back inside the house after a 5.5-magnitude aftershock we had, and I had to call a nice neighbour to come over and help me reassure her.

I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this, but moving out simply isn’t an option. The damage at our house is moderate but it’s still liveable, and I think our chances of being able to sell it are zilch. We need to find a way to go on without this taking over our lives.

I thought things were supposed to get easier as time goes on, not harder.

Kirstie, Canterbury


Dear Kirstie

I’m sorry things are so tough, and I’m full of admiration for your strength right now and the fact that you’re carrying on in such awful circumstances. You’re one of the many unsung heroes in a situation completely not of your choosing or creation.

The first thing I can do is to reassure you that your children’s responses are normal and appropriate. Check with the school what their routine is when there are aftershakes. By going over the routine in the morning, you may be able to reassure your son that he knows what to do when this happens.

Then, when you take him into his classroom, hand him over to his teacher. That way he goes directly from one caregiver to another. Give him a hanky – preferably with a drop of your perfume on it ­- that he can keep in his pocket all the time, and explain to him, “This is so you know that I’m thinking of you all day.”

Encourage your daughter to speak to counsellors by calling 0800 Kidsline – 0800 543 754. They’re trained to help children deal with fears, and will give you a well-deserved break from trying to manage your kids’ fears, as well as your own.

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