With all of the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy, aka “Frankenstorm” I thought I should write a post about helping children deal with natural disasters.
So, how can you help your child go through a stressful event and minimize worry and concern?
- The most important thing to do is stay calm. Children look to the adults around them for support and comfort. Often, parents will appear anxious, worried, and constantly talk about their fears and “what if…” scenarios. When a child is exposed to these behaviors, they will most likely be more anxious and worried as well.
- Turn the TV OFF! Watching images of destroyed property, angry weather, and listening to hyped up newscasters will only increase a child’s concern. Watch a family movie or play a family game instead.
- Talk to your child about their fears and concerns. Children will often be worried about things because they have exaggerated or irrational predictions about what may happen.
- If there are serious injuries or losses, make sure your child knows what is going on. Children that don’t know the reality of a situation will often assume the worse.
- Encourage your child to ask you any questions they want. Discuss what they are worried about, the unknown can be scary.
- Find time for friends. Having life return to normal as soon as possible can be the best way to help your child understand that things will be ok!
- Spend time together, this will make your child feel comfortable and secure.
- Remember, children are resilient, they often persevere during times of stress and turmoil!
- Encourage your child to journal or draw to deal with their feelings.
- Continue to practice habits for good health. Get adequate sleep, exercise and make sure you eat well. Taking care of your body in times of stress is important. For tips on nutrition, check out my post, Let them eat cake… for breakfast?
Helping children through times of high anxiety can be challenging. Recognizing that your child is having difficulty dealing with a situation is not always easy. Symptoms of stress and anxiety can present in multiple ways, such as: bad dreams, insomnia, bed wetting, not eating well, not wanting to venture away from a parent/caregiver, stomach aches, headaches, not wanting to play with friends, difficulty concentrating, difficulty in school, or even irritability. If your child seems to be having lingering effects for a prolonged period of time, I would recommend seeing your primary care provider. Children can have Acute Stress Syndrome, which occurs immediately or within a month of the precipitating even. Children can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome if the fear and anxiety symptoms last for weeks or months.
If you and your family had to endure the weather challenges of Hurricane Sandy, I hope you came through it without any serious injuries or damages. It sure was one heck of a storm, definitely one for the record books. Going through natural disasters is an unfortunate part of life. It is part of the journey we could all do without!
Hopefully this part of your journey will be put behind you quickly, and make you and your children stronger on the flip side.