Hurricanes and other natural disasters have a long-lasting effect on its victims that extend far beyond the physical damages and loss of material belongings. The fear and insecurity associated with a traumatic experience may be especially trying for a child. As a parent, educator, or care-taker, providing reassurance and answering questions about a natural disaster is an important part of the healing process.
Who is At-Risk?
Children who have been directly affected by a natural disaster are most vulnerable. Some of the risk factors include:
Being evacuated from their home and losing personal belongings
Experiencing the loss of a family member and/or pet
Secondary trauma resulting from parent job loss, temporary living arrangements and financial stressors
Tips for Minimizing the Emotional Impact on Children
Children affected by a natural disaster may experience separation anxiety, fear of a repeat event, and other emotional issues. Some sights and sounds, like bodies of water and sirens may re-trigger anxiety in children. Here are some tips to help your child regain emotional balance:
Provide reassurance demonstrated by hugs and physical contact
Encourage your child to talk about his/her feelings
Honestly answer questions related to the traumatic event
Serve as a role model for your child. How you respond during a crisis will likely have the greatest impact on your child’s response
Limit exposure to media
Restore normal routines as much as possible
Establish or update your plan for disasters to help ease fears of a repeat event
When you achieve a sense of normalcy, many of the post-traumatic emotional issues experienced by children will diminish. If your child continues to experience anxiety after a natural disaster, consult with your child’s physician or seek the help of a mental health professional. Amy Wine Counseling is here to help, if you need it. Feel free to call us at 832-421-8714 or email us for an appointment.