– Templeton, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

We have four children, ages 12, 14, 14 and 16. The effects on them of earthquakes have been what i would consider “character building”. At first, there was a lot of crying from my two youngest daughters (12 and 14). Whenever there was a big aftershock following September, my 12 year old was absolutely terrified and cried and clung to the doorway.

The first day of the 7.1 was horrendous…i was shaking more than the ground and unfortunately that transferred to my daughter. In the end, I had to pull it together and used a lot of humour to help her through (eg, “don’t think that just because the ground is shaking, you don’t have to take your medicine/do the dishes” etc). I gave her a soft cuddly toy rabbit and told her that he would be very scared when there was an aftershock, so she needed to squeeze him tight…it worked well for her.

Often, her and my 14 year old daughter would sleep in the same bed if it was a shaky night…with the door open and the light on. One night was particularly bad…all i could hear was them screaming each time. In the end, i told them that every time they screamed i thought they were hurt, i know you are scared but try and cuddle up instead. Next time there was a house dropping jolt and big shake…no screaming. Rushed into their room worried sick…two pairs of wide eyes looking at me, they listened and didn’t scream. My 16 year old shares a room with my 12 year old, would often hear her say things like “don’t worry, you know Geonet says it’s good for the small ones to happen, it releases energy so the bigger ones don’t happen” (haha). So she was mothering her. My 14 year old son doesn’t seem to be phased. My 14 year old daughter ended up getting angry at the aftershocks keeping her awake at night…we would hear an angry “GO AWAY!!” at 1.30am or whenever. Now the first thing they will say is “ooh Mum, wonder what size that was/whereabouts in Chch/how deep” and they all rush off to check Geonet.

They have come through it really well, no major issues so far (fingers crossed). Lots of cuddles and reassurance from me when they need it…the angriest i have felt was just this year, my 14 year old has had major hip/femoral surgery. Had to leave her at the hospital and collect the other kids from school, about 30 – 40 mins away. Sitting at the lights and the car starts rocking…looked around, everyone else looked confused too for 5 seconds, then “ooohhh….”. Texted my girl straight away…got back “oml Mum that was scary, the bed was rocking, but the nurses checked on me”...never felt so powerless because i couldn’t go straight back to her and knew she couldn’t even leave her bed. I have asked all my kids if they think we should live somewhere else, their immediate response was “no…why? this is our home!!”

Am proud of them all, and watch them very carefully even now things are quieter…sometimes i have to leave them at home in the school holidays when i work, have a cellphone on at all times, work 10 minutes down the road….usually they text straight away, “we’re all okay Mum, are you okay?” they know the drill….get under the doorways straight away, look out for each other. Last time i rushed home from work (Dec 2011, two close shocks together and littler ones) to them, i cried all the way home…and i knew they were okay!! Just stressful…and wondering how the people in the CBD/East got on, they were told to go straight home and check their houses out. When i got home, my 14 year old was upset because one of my favourite coffee mugs had smashed…was so relieved they were okay :) Luckily i was home after the first 5plus and with them for the 6 that followed…all okay but as their Mum, think it upsets me more than them if i’m not there. They are amazing kids.

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