Guidelines for Helping Kids Deal with the Hurricane

Hurricane Guidelines

    1. Consider your own emotions about the hurricane before you talk to your kids. As adults, we can’t help kids cope with their feelings unless we have dealt with ours first. Kids look to adults to help them understand the meaning of the storm and the damage that occurred. We need to have our own emotions in check so we can be available to help our kids cope.

    2. Remember the importance of talking and listening when initiating a discussion about the hurricane. Since talking about the storm may bring up a lot of emotions, remembering effective communication techniques can be helpful. Good communication involves not just talking, but listening as well. Ask your kids what they think about the storm and ask open-ended questions. “Tell me what you think about the storm. What have you talked about in school? How do you think people handled the storm and the power being out for so long? Tell me about some of the things that happened to your friends.”

    3. Timing is important. It usually helps to have an opening to starting a conversation, such as driving by some damage, or seeing a news story. Talking during the day is usually better then talking at night. Most kids are more tired at the end of the day and have less energy to cope with heavy topics. Discussions about upsetting things should be avoided right before bedtime.

    4. Recognize that kids may need help putting their feelings into words. Kids may have difficulty expressing their feelings, and we can help by giving their feelings a voice. “What I hear you saying is that you are still confused and scared about the storm and you worry it may come back. Sometimes we have more than one feeling about something like this. Let’s try to figure this out.”

    5. Reassure kids about their personal safety. Some kids will have lingering fears about their safety. Let them know there are procedures in place to ensure all of our safety concerning the weather. Let them know there are experts who watch the weather, let us know if dangerous weather is coming, and there are safe places to be if needed. Reassure them that there are officials whose job it is to keep us all safe, such as police officers and fire rescue personnel. Severe weather is common in this area, and having kids understand that adults have a plan can help them feel more secure.

    6. Monitor television viewing. Many networks will be showing footage of damaged areas or advertising the weather news teams. This can be retraumatizing for some kids. Reassure them that what they are seeing on television happened last week, (or month), and is not happening all over again. Plan ahead to avoid excessive television exposure and consider turning to other activities.

    7. Remember the positives. Help yourself and your kids remember that, most importantly, people are safe. Whatever damage you suffered, help your kids remember it could have been worse. Help them see that buildings can be repaired, power can be restored, but our loved ones are what is most important. Having your kids witness some reconstruction activity can also help them see that life can return to normal.

    8. Plan for a period of adjustment. It is normal for kids to show signs of trauma such as crying, clinginess, irritability, poor sleeping and eating, excessive focus or denial of the storm. Typically these behaviors resolve themselves over a few weeks. Be sure to make time to spend some extra attention on your kids to help ease the adjustment. Being supportive and patient through this adjustment will help it pass. Other kids may show no signs of problems and that can be normal as well.

    9. If you are concerned about your child, talk with a mental health professional. Some kids may still be having a hard time adjusting even after a few weeks. If your child seems to be having prolonged difficulty, consider consulting with a professional to help your child resolve their feelings.

    10. Remember hugs and support help everyone feel better.

    Karon Ivey, LMHC