The impending arrival of a major storm or a hurricane can be a very stressful time for anyone, and children are not immune to this. In fact, it can probably be argued that children are perhaps the most susceptible to psychological trauma associated with natural disasters. Trauma occurs when there is sufficiently a scary or dangerous situation. Hurricanes and other major weather phenomena can provide lots of scary and dangerous situations for kids – especially with all of the sensational imagery out there on news channels and other media.
Adults understand the potential loss of property and potential harm or injury that can occur with the advent of a hurricane. Children have a basic understanding of these risks but the problem gets compounded when they are kept out of the loop, and instead of being part of the discussion they end up sometimes pushed to one side. Even if this is inadvertent, the damage is still done.
Though the trauma can affect a child before, during, and after the hurricane; it is the aftermath of the storm that parents or guardians need to be mindful of. Children are resilient but there can be outbursts or strong emotions that can be symptoms of the uncertainty that children feel especially if there has been widespread and life-altering damage. Parents should pay attention to changes in behavior like bedwetting for kids under 6, temper tantrums, changes in appetite in both directions, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, problems focusing, and a fear that a hurricane may happen again in the short term.
What Can You Do?
Here are a few suggestions for what you can do to lessen the trauma in the aftermath of a hurricane:
- It may seem silly to some adults, but sometimes children can blame themselves for bad things happening. It is the duty of every parent to let their kids know that they are completely blameless and none of it was their fault.
- Some children may have difficulty expressing negative emotions at this time. You should let your child know that all emotions are perfectly fine and understandable.
- Young children may be clingy and might need to be around their parents on a continual basis (some may even need to sleep in the same bed for a while after). If possible, concessions should be made to make kids as comfortable as possible after the storm.
- Set up a regular time each day to discuss your child’s feelings towards recent events surrounding the hurricane and its effects. Ideally, it should well before bedtime, and in a quiet place devoid of distractions.
- Most importantly, you need to reassure children that they are safe and that the likelihood of another disaster happening again is low. Children crave a safe, structured environment and even if we, as parents, can’t always provide it, we should make all efforts to let our kids feel safe and secure.
All children aren’t the same and many can go through a hurricane and come out with no psychological trauma, but for those that do come out with some ill effects, we hope that this article will help you.