How to help children cope with the traumatic effects of a hurricane
By Bianca Barr Tunno, AccuWeather staff writer
In the aftermath of a hurricane or other large disaster, children are often angry, scared or worried, which are normal emotions for any person to feel. Experts say letting kids know it’s OK to have intense feelings about the situation is a great first step in helping them cope.
When adults help children express their emotions immediately after disaster then get them back to their routines, it creates a daily structure and expectation, according to Sarah Thompson, director of U.S. Emergencies with Save the Children.
“Disasters can uproot so much of a child’s life. The sooner they can get back to school, childcare or get back to playing sports is really important because that’s what’s normal to them,” said Thompson in a Facebook Live interview with AccuWeather. “It puts them back in contact with caring adults and peers...and it gives them a schedule where they know what comes next.”
She says children will feel like they have more control. It also makes them feel like the disaster hasn’t taken everything away from them.
Photos: Volunteers work tirelessly to ensure safety of animals from Florence's wrath
Authorities warn of looting, scams and fraud cases during post-Florence relief efforts
Why it’s important to protect your cherished, irreplaceable photos before a natural disaster happens
Experts share tips on how to prepare children for hurricanes
Different personalities, different experiences
In the post-disaster environment, each child will react in a unique way, and some reactions will vary by the child’s age.
“You can never assume that a child is traumatized by an event,” Thompson said. “You can experience a traumatic event without being traumatized, but it’s important that we provide support for kids during and after a disaster so that they can cope with the event.”
Healing can start at home
Thompson offered a list of resources to help children cope after a disaster hits home.
1. Use yourself: Think about what has moved you through previous difficult experiences. If you are a parent, identify your own coping mechanisms and share them with your child. Make sure you are practicing self-care.
2. Use community resources: Find faith-based communities that offer group support or that might have access to licensed counselors or other mental health professional networks in your area.
3. Use national programs: Immediate crisis counseling is available when you call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. This 24/7 resource is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Also, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a host of resources and programs available for children of all ages.
“It really is a community effort to help ensure our kids are safe," Thompson said. "When our kids are safe, in general, our community is safer."
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - March 18, 2019, 9:52:57 AM EDT
Tropical depression Chedeng organized across the Philippine Sea and will threaten the southern Philippines with flash flooding and gusty winds early this week.
Weather News - March 18, 2019, 9:20:42 AM EDT
Tropical Cyclone Idai brought deadly flooding to parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi after making landfall in central Mozambique Thursday night, local time.
Weather News - March 18, 2019, 8:30:11 AM EDT
Heavy rain inundated portions of eastern Indonesia this weekend, resulting in widespread flooding and mudslides that have killed at least 79, injured dozens and displaced thousands. Dozens remain missing.
Weather News - March 18, 2019, 8:23:09 AM EDT
The photographer who captured the breathtaking and rare phenomenon talked with AccuWeather about being in the right place at the right time.
Weather News - March 18, 2019, 8:05:39 AM EDT
Following one of the snowiest Februarys on record, Seattle is in for another rare weather event this coming week.
Weather News - March 17, 2019, 3:54:07 PM EDT
Newly formed Tropical Cyclone Trevor is expected to take aim and bring dangers to the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland, Australia, this week.
Weather News - March 18, 2019, 2:22:26 AM EDT
After not hitting the 70-degree Fahrenheit mark in February for the first time on record, another temperature phenomenon has occurred in Los Angeles.