How to Talk to Your Kids About a Hurricane: Coping with Loss and Moving On
Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, but in its wake we have been left with loss and uncertainty. During this time of uneasy recovery, with loved ones in the hospital and others lost to us, we often overlook the youngest among us who may be dealing with pain we just can’t see. Everyone has been touched by this terrible storm in one way or another, but it is important to consider a child’s security and emotional outlook when a Hurricane strikes.
Here are a few ways you can detect the signs of childhood depression, anxiety, fear and pain along with ways of helping them cope:
Comfort your child and evaluate their responses. Never second-guess traumatic stress in a child. Their answers to your questions can reveal much about their fears, confusions and sense of loss. Often it is the way in which a young boy or girl responds to your questions that reveals more than the inquiries themselves. Read their body language. Remember, that in the case where your child does not understand why this is all happening, you should reaffirm their assumptions about “how everything will be back to normal soon”, but do not lie to your children with exaggerated assumptions. A straight-forward reassurance with love goes a long way.
A healthy body leads to healthy positive emotions. Sometimes during a hurricane, parents neglect to consider the fundamental rule about everyone’s wellbeing – we operate best when we treat ourselves best. Make sure, if you can, that every child has a healthy diet and keeps physically active. Inactivity mixed with a poor diet of sugary drinks and junk food can increase your child’s susceptibility to mood swings and depression. Moving and playing, so long as it is safe enough to do so, helps keep your children occupied and helps reduce stress even during a hurricane. Make sure to stock up on fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks so your kids can operate at 100%.
You must be strong and show controlled behavior during and after a storm. Your children will always look to the parents or legal guardians as their emotional anchors over choppy waters. Be the pillar of support they need during a crisis and never lose your cool. Hug them when they need to be held and console them when bad news involves someone they know. It is recommended that you talk to your children beforehand about issues concerning what a hurricane is, what to expect when a hurricane strikes and any other fears they might have regarding what might happen after a hurricane. You know your kids better than anyone else. Decide for yourself how to approach issues like death, homelessness and powers beyond our control when answering their questions.
It is always a tragedy when the internal suffering of young people are left unaddressed. Emotional and developmental problems related to repressed emotions and untreated traumatic stress can lead to a severely lowered quality of life for everyone, especially for the children themselves.
If you suspect your child has not resumed normal healthy emotional behavior after the recovery from a hurricane do not hesitate to act. Set your child up with a Grief Counselor or Child Therapist immediately and provide them with the support they need for any hurricane.