Nigel’s advice for Christchurch parents

Cover image of "Quaky cat"Who else watched Nigel Latta on TV One last night?

Nigel Latta is a forensic psychologist best known for his parenting advice. He is also one of my New Zealand heroes. I really admire his humour and honesty – he’s the guy who’ll point out the elephant in the room and even climb on for a ride.

While “After the Quake” was obviously filmed before the quakes on Monday, Nigel’s suggestions couldn’t have come at a better time.  Like he says, no 30-minute television show can solve all the problems those living in Quakeville may be experiencing, but a brief overview of how to deal with ongoing trauma is a start.

It’s difficult to try to hold yourself together and keep going while also helping your children cope. Here’s a summary of Nigel’s advice:

Advice and reassurance from Nigel

  • Flashbacks, avoidance and increased adrenaline are all normal reactions to a traumatic event;
  • Sometimes the best therapy for children is family;
  • Reassure your children they are safe, surround them with family and friends, act calm so your children learn how to respond calmly too, get them involved to keep them busy and give them a sense of self-advocacy, and maintain hope – things will get better;
  • Continuing routines and rules where possible is important – the quake isn’t a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for bad behaviour;
  • Teach your kids relaxation exercises to use whenever they get worked up;
  • Introduce new vocabulary so they have more ways to label how they are feeling and a greater sense of control in the situation;
  • Break big problems that cause anxiety down into small, more manageable steps;
  • Reliving experiences through play and drawing is a really healthy coping mechanism, so don’t worry if your children set up a tent in the lounge, shake its walls, scream “Earthquake!”  then stand outside the wrecked tent with their toys and wait for EQC to show up;
  • Visit Safe and Sound for more helpful suggestions and support;
  • Christchurch City Libraries is here for you, too!

If you missed the progamme, watch it online.

After the disaster: coping with stress

Here are some websites that may help you cope with the stress of the recent earthquakes. If you need urgent assistance, contact HealthLine (24 hours) 0800 611 116 or the Earthquake Government Helpline 0800 779 997.

Wellbeing support services
Links from
Coping with stress factsheets
From the Ministry of Health.
After Disaster: Responding to the psychological consequences of disasters for children and young people
By Peter Stanley and Sarah Williams. This free download has been made available by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. 1.4 MB PDF.
Wellbeing and supporting students
From the Ministry of Education.
Read health information form the Canterbury District Health Board
From the Canterbury Earthquake website.