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.