Promoting Resilience after Natural Disasters

How Head Start’s comprehensive services can help support children and families

Many children experience traumatic events and loss at a young age, drastically impacting their home and school environments as well as their physical, mental, social, and emotional development. From hurricanes to tornadoes to wildfires, many children and families are coping with the trauma of natural disasters. Head Start’s unique comprehensive services can help to provide support and care for those impacted while also building resilience strategies and coping mechanism to help children and families bounce back.

Because we know that many of our Head Start families and staff have had to endure devastating natural disasters in recent years, NHSA has dedicated this Year of Whole Health month to sharing resources and tools to help Head Start programs and staff to promote resilience in the children and families they serve, as well as themselves.

This month we hosted a webinar, Promoting Resilience After Natural Disasters, where we heard from early childhood resilience experts from the Devereux Center for Resilient Children about the impact of stress from natural disasters and traumatic experiences on early childhood development and the importance of building and promoting resilience before and after natural disasters and traumatic experiences. The webinar also reviewed NHSA and Kaplan Early Learning’s online course, Building Resilience After Natural Disasters, and described how Head Start leaders can utilize the course and resources to build and promote resilience in the children and families they serve.

What did we learn this month?

  1. Protective factors can help children bounce back from traumatic experiences and offer hope in times of trouble. It is important to ensure all children have the protective factors they need when faced with a traumatic event. Three key protective factors for children are: attachments and relationships, initiative, and self-regulation. We can help to build these protective factors by doing things like: making time just for play, naming and discussing your own feelings with children and encourage them to do the same, and laughing and showing love to foster close relationships with children.
  2. Risk factors like negative influences and relationships, unsafe home and school environment, and underdeveloped social and emotional skills can influence the probability that an individual will have difficulty “bouncing back” or coping with traumatic events.
  3. Traumatic experiences impact children and their families but also the caregivers, teachers, and staff who support them. Supporting children who have experienced trauma takes a toll and it can be hard to know how best to respond while also being mindful of your own resilience and well being.

What can you do to promote resilience after natural disasters and trauma?

  1. Take the FREE online course, Building Resilience After Natural Disasters, from Kaplan Early Learning specifically designed for Head Start staff impacted by natural disasters. This course includes content for children and adults and can be taken at your own pace from any device! You can also earn certificates with CEUs awarded through this course. If you have any questions about accessing the free courses, please email Sarah Neil at
  2. Check out and download the Devereux Early Childhood Assessments (DECA) tools and resources to help support the healthy social and emotional development and resilience of Head Start children and families. These nationally standardized, reliable and valid assessments help to build and strengthen protective factors in early childhood.
  3. Download and use the Devereux Adult Resilience Survey (DARS) to help give parents and caregivers the opportunity to become aware of personal strengths and areas of need. The information found from this survey can be used to help adults build on certain strengths and better cope with stresses or traumatic experiences.
  4. Download the Devereux Resilient Leadership Survey (DERLS) to help Head Start teachers and leaders to reflect on behaviors associated with resilient leadership. This survey can provide insightful information for teachers and staff around areas of strength and opportunities for growth.

Interested in continuing this conversation online? Log into The Block to engage in discussion, peer-to-peer learning, and idea and resource sharing with hundreds of other NHSA members within 9 different Communities of Practice. If you have questions about The Block and NHSA’s membership, please contact Taylor Bohn at

If you have any questions about this topic or any other topic within NHSA’s Year of Whole Health Initiative, please contact Sarah Neil at



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